UC News

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: England will only get better but Eddie Jones needs to find back-up forwards to rival South Africa's 'Bomb Squad'

It is clearly not as deep as many thought and they were exposed on SaturdayEngland's World Cup journey ended in heartbreak vs South Africa in the finalEddie Jones' team will learn from the defeat and become more consistent The main work now is developing the back-up strength in the forwards

The disappointment of such a comprehensive defeat by South Africa will take some getting over by everyone involved with England, especially those who experienced such devastation at our home World Cup in 2015.

I do feel for every single one of them, but it should not detract from the overall World Cup campaign.

Sometimes you just get things wrong, which they did on Saturday. Eddie Jones will be the first to admit this. He seems to have failed to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the South African team and sent out the same team to play the same way as they had so successfully the week before against New Zealand.

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: England will only get better but Eddie Jones needs to find back-up forwards to rival South Africa's 'Bomb Squad'

Sam Underhill of England is tackled by Franco Mostert and Duane Vermeulen of South Africa

This was a big mistake as South Africa and New Zealand at this World Cup were totally different. As Ronan O’Gara tweeted succinctly: ‘No scrum, no win.’

But this England side will not regress. This England team will get better and more consistent and they should all learn from this setback. Never forget how England rugby was reeling four years ago. From that low point, England have recovered and re-established themselves as a major force in the game.

You don’t have to look far for positives in this campaign. Their victory over New Zealand was the greatest single England performance I have seen. That is the template and England must aim to get as close to it every time, but clearly with more focus on who they are playing.

There was clearly a cost to pay for the magnificent performance which we saw against New Zealand. Emotionally it took a toll. It’s incredibly difficult just a week later to dig even deeper and reach even higher. That can come with experience and maturity, and there are many in this England team who should be around in 2023 to implement the lessons of Saturday’s painful defeat.

England have some massive strengths to build on. There is a clutch of players in the squad who have their best years ahead of them — Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, George Ford, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly and Owen Farrell, who has grown into the job as skipper. All are coming into the prime of their careers.

England coach Eddie Jones and his players watch on as South Africa lifted the trophy 

There are also others on the fringe I would expect to start making a major impact soon, not least Joe Cokanasinga on the wing, while I believe Henry Slade will have a big role to play.

This group also seems very grounded, and I admired the unfussy way they made their way through the rounds with the minimum of drama.

Another positive is that this England team clearly decided to master the new tackle laws. Rather than argue the toss and whinge, they took on board the fact that everybody needs to go in low all the time and they spent days and days on the training field perfecting the ultra-low, sideways-on technique required.

The main work facing England now is developing the back-up strength in the forwards. It is clearly not as deep as many thought and they were exposed on Saturday, especially in the scrums by the massive power of the Boks’ ‘Bomb Squad’, the six forwards they bring off the bench.

I would argue that South Africa finished with a stronger pack than they started with on Saturday. And the starting eight gave England a really rough ride the first-half.

England are wheeled at another scrum to concede a penalty  against South Africa 

What next for Eddie?

Let's examine this dispassionately. In four years a coach — let’s call him ‘Eddie’ — has taken England from a world ranking of No 8 to No 1, and expunged the memory of being dumped out of a World Cup at the pool stage in 2015.

He has given the nation a talented, spirited, side who try to play at pace and get us out of our seats. They are not quite the finished article, but their potential is almost frightening.

I’m amazed there is any debate about whether Eddie Jones should be asked to stay on until the next global tournament in 2023.

I was pleased it was announced long before this World Cup that Eddie’s contract would be extended by two years, with, presumably, options on both sides at that stage. That was a sensible halfway house, in case it all went horribly wrong in Japan. It didn’t.

Eddie has made such progress with this team, but sometimes even four years is not enough time to get the job done. That was certainly my experience in 1999.

Eddie Jones produces a wry smile as he walks past the trophy following his team's defeat

Thank you Japan

You know a sporting event has been pretty special when you just don’t want it to end.

I have loved this World Cup and we need to offer a big thanks and well done to all those involved in staging it and making the tournament so memorable.

I have watched from my armchair at home, followed it on Twitter, worked as a pundit in the ITV studios in London and then for the last two weeks in Japan, which was a great privilege. It has worked brilliantly on every level.

Random memories include waking before dawn one morning at home and just flicking the TV on not even knowing there was a match on, and finding Uruguay v Fiji. Two hours later, I was still there completely transfixed by one of those great upset wins which we love. The Uruguayan skipper wasn’t the only one with a tear in his eye.

I’ve loved all the ceremonial bowing, the pre-match drums, the incredible handling and fitness of the Japanese team and the David v Goliath duels we still see on a rugby pitch.

South Africa's players bow to the crowd as they celebrate winning the World Cup

South Africa field some of the biggest players on earth yet their two superstars are the diminutive Cheslin Kolbe and Faf de Klerk; Japan’s little scrum-half Yutaka Nagare would be the smallest player in any schoolboy game in Britain, yet he is a giant of a player, one of the best No 9s on the planet

It took a while for everybody to get used to the new strict officiating of the tackle, but it was worth the effort. There is no going back now.

Tackling was still ferocious, and you can still dominate teams with physicality, but from now on the head is absolutely a no-go area.

The Japanese crowds were amazing, generous and supportive of all sides, and I for one can’t wait for the sevens at the Olympics next year. That is going to be the hottest ticket in town.

READ SOURCE
Open UCNews to Read More Articles