England’s ability to win matches in the final 10 minutes stems from Eddie Jones’ adaptation of football’s tactical periodization, a practice used by the likes of Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas.
After Ben Teo’s 70th-minute try saw England defeat France on round one of the Six Nations, Elliot Daly scored with just four minutes left to clinch victory for Jones’ men in Cardiff. But both tries are down to design, rather than luck with their ability to finish strongly born from a football philosophy.
The tactic is said to be the brainchild of Portuguese lecturer Vitor Frade who developed a method of preparing teams focused around four different moments in a match – the transition from attack to defence, the movement from defence to attack, attacking organisation and defensive structures. The background to the on-field action is born from training methods focused on skill, speed, strength, stamina and psychology with a view to understanding and training for the structure of a match.
Mourinho, the Manchester United coach, is a strong advocate of the method and it has been a constant theme in his approach throughout his top level coaching career.
Jones first picked up the practice when he visited Qatar to speak with exercise physiologist Alberto Mendez-Villanuava who splits his time between working at the Aspire Academy – a centre dedicated to developing athletes ahead of the 2022 World Cup and has Lionel Messi and Raul among its ambassadors – and with the Qatar Under-23 football side.
England celebrate Elliot Daly’s late score against Wales — the second time in this Six Nations where they have won a match in the final 10 minutes. (Photo by Steve Bardens – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)
“We use a methodology which I’ve borrowed from soccer called tactical periodization,” Jones said. “Every day we train a specific parameter of the game.
“We have one day where we have a physical session and do more contacts than we would do in a game. Then we have a fast day where we try to train for at least 60 percent of the session above game speed.
“We don’t do any extra fitness. It’s all done within those training sessions. Because of that we’ve improved our fitness enormously.”
Jones used this method during his time with Japan and he first introduced it there in 2013. The approach was highlighted masterfully in their win over South Africa in the World Cup where their fitness and planning saw them secure the historic win in the final throes of the match.
Since Jones took on the England role in 2015, they have garnered a reputation for finishing matches in the ascendancy and both Six Nations matches have showcased this with game-clinching tries coming in the final 10 minutes of both Tests.
Married with this tactical approach is Jones’ use of his replacements – figures he labels his “finishers” – but it is all born from their training structure. The football model sees the week split into three sections with recovery then followed by high intensity training focused around strength, endurance and speed and then a day of recovery before the match. Jones has used this with England, where players are exposed to double training sessions on a Tuesday before a Saturday game.
“We train fast and it’s not just helter-skelter or unstructured,” England captain Dylan Hartley said. “It’s all planned and researched. We have a great performance team who with Eddie they create these sessions where we run more meters in a Test match and make more contacts and collisions.
Jose Mourinho has used tactical periodization to great effect and now Eddie Jones has adapted it for England. AP
“The running is secretly being upped — as is the time the ball is in play at training. The rest periods are shortened. Water breaks cut from 30 seconds to 20. It gives us confidence knowing we have trained to a greater intensity. You can’t replicate the game scenarios totally, though. You have to be on the money.”
Jones’ primary focus and gauge of how individuals are performing mid-match is focused on the time it takes players to get off the ground. And as has been the mantra of Jones’ time with England, everything is weighed against the benchmark set by the world’s best side, the All Blacks.
“I went through it with the staff today and we were talking about the gap between us and New Zealand,” Jones said. “In terms of getting off the ground we are seven percent below New Zealand. We are still not where we need to be. Everything we do is geared towards bridging that gap between us and the All Blacks.”
The All Blacks’ ability to win matches late on has also become part of their unrivalled threat – Jones referenced their 2013 win over Ireland – but as the last two weeks have shown, England are starting to develop similar traits thanks to the adaptation of a method used so successfully by Mourinho.
“How many games out of our last 15 wins have we won in last 20 minutes? That’s not by coincidence,” Jones said. “It’s because we train to win those last 20 minutes.
“We back ourselves. Wales were the benchmark team in Europe for winning games in the last 20 minutes. Now we’ve beaten them three times in a row so maybe we deserve that title.”
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY