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On Jones’ one-year anniversary, what has changed?

Sun, Nov 20, 2016, Posted by   print

2007 World Cup

12:22 PM GMT

It was 7 a.m. on Nov. 20, 2015, when the RFU press release dropped confirming the appointment of Eddie Jones as England’s new head coach on a four-year deal.

England were still licking their wounds after a dismal World Cup which saw Stuart Lancaster depart. England rugby was at its nadir and ranked eighth in the world.

Exactly a year on and England have won 11 on the bounce under Jones, are second in the rankings and expectation is at its highest since those halcyon days of 2003.

To mark Jones’ one-year anniversary, we look at what he said in the opening press conference and assess what has changed over the past 12 months.

“I will work out who I need to be hard with and who I need to be soft with.”

Jones’ appointment came with cautionary tales from those players he coached before who felt both the carrot and the stick. Ex-Wallabies captain James Horwill spoke at the time of there being “no grey area” with Jones, if you were under-performing then you’d know it.

The England players have seen this transparent and direct method of communicating. When Jones got the gig he reportedly gave pretty harsh assessments to Ben Youngs regarding his fitness, James Haskell on his form and Luke Cowan-Dickie on his off-field self-control.

With Billy Vunipola he has spent much of the last year building his self-confidence, telling him he’s going to be the best No.8 in the world. This direct, no nonsense style of management has struck a chord with the players and the results speak for themselves.

“We’ve got to develop openside flankers. I’ve got three or four names of guys who can potentially play there.”

This is still a problem area for Jones. Teimana Harrison, Jack Clifford, Tom Wood and Haskell have all been tried there – the latter is in the box seat – but it looks like he has opted to move away from a fetcher to what he terms their “stopper”.

Sam Jones, Mike Williams and Clifford are options for the future but it seems he is still assessing the options available to him.

David Rogers/Getty Images

“What are good values in rugby? You need discipline, you need to work hard, you need to want to be part of the team.”

These values are at the heart of his England side. He challenges the players and wants them to be desperate to play for their country.

His approach in the week leading up to the Fiji Test was to reiterate how he was not just going to give caps away but instead he wanted players to buy into his ethos. If their face does not fit then they will not be given a chance.

Sir Clive Woodward wrote at the time of Jones’ appointment that forging an identity needed to be high up his priority list. He has done this through a player-led environment. He looks to his captain Dylan Hartley and vice-captains Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell and Mike Brown to drive inner-squad values and they self-police squad discipline.

“The first thing with a captain is that he has to be one of the first players selected. Secondly, whatever values we’ve got in the team they’ve got to live those values.”

Dylan Hartley has been England’s captain since Jones got the job and he has been an essential figure in driving and maintaining standards. With the off field behaviour of England’s football captain dominating the news agenda this week, Hartley was asked about his own values. It was telling that he saw his leadership approach as treating “men like men so you get men”.

“The traditions of English rugby are to have a strong set piece and to be defensively strong. Then, to score points you need to be able to score off your ball and score points off the opposition ball.”

Alongside the above quote from his opening press conference, Jones added: “We aren’t going to be copying how the All Blacks play. We are going to have our own style of play.”

England’s set piece has been sturdy and this was an early priority for Jones. They are still developing their attacking game — this is the final piece of the Jones-England jigsaw — and the defence is a work in progress. When he got the job, ex-Wallaby David Campese said Jones’ style of rugby is “robotic” but a year on that looks to be an unfair assessment of how England have played.

Their tour in Australia personified the above qualities and some of their play and movement against Fiji suggested they are making strides in the scoring points area.

Paul Gustard and Steve Borthwick have transformed England’s defence and set-piece game. (Photo by David Rogers – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

“One of the goals is by 2019 to have a couple of the assistants ready to take over as head coach. I see that as a fundamental part of my job.”

Jones continually challenges his coaches to improve. Having bid farewell to Andy Farrell, Graham Rowntree and Mike Catt, he brought in Paul Gustard, Steve Borthwick and Neal Hatley.

The three spent the summer learning from other coaches while Jones brings in outside figures to add a new voice and approach to training. Jones’ successor is not clear at the moment but he has three years to address this.

“In the next four years we’ve got to systematically bring young players in, give them enough experience so that in 2019 they have got enough to be consistent performers.”

Jones has handed out 11 debuts since taking the job and has brought through young players like Maro Itoje, Clifford, Elliot Daly, Nathan Hughes, Charlie Ewels and Kyle Sinckler. He has frequently spoken about the need for depth and as many as four options per position.

No doubt some of the younger players will fail to take the next step but there are another layer on his radar like Mike Haley, Jacob Rowan and Will Evans who will get their chance at some stage.

“At least 70 percent of the World Cup squad can go on to 2019. All players are starting on zero, there is always an opportunity to change things.”

Starting from zero applies to Tom Wood and Chris Robshaw. Jones was pretty scathing of Robshaw’s ability as a Test flanker while in charge of Japan but the Quins man impressed the coach and was named his player of the Six Nations.

Jones told Wood he was pretty ordinary when he took the England job but worked on areas of his game and won back his place in the squad. And as for the 2019 World Cup? Jones has both short-term and long-term plans for players and tactics.

It’s been a case of so far, so good for the Jones era. It will be fascinating to see what happens when they lose and how both the coach and players react but based on his first year, he could not have hoped for much better than 11 straight wins, a Grand Slam and a series win against the Wallabies.

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/18093146/a-year-eddie-jones-took-charge-england-changed

On Jones’ one-year anniversary, what has changed?

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