“Things needed shaking up, not just tweaking.”
Clive Woodward has called on Eddie Jones to shake up his England team after their disappointing start to the 2021 Six Nations.
Jones has persisted with a number of misfiring Saracens players, including England captain Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola, in his side to face to face Wales on Saturday.
While many of the players that will start for England at the Principality Stadium have been crucial in the side’s success – Woodward, writing for the Daily Mail – reckons Cardiff represents the last chance for many players to perform.
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“Looking at the team Eddie Jones has picked to play Wales tomorrow it feels like last-chance saloon for this England group, the class of 2019 if you like,” Woodward wrote.
“They have a chance to come out firing and make a lot of pundits and former players eat their words. But if they fail and England are reduced to Six Nations also-rans then the ‘positive feedback’ they get next week will be off the Richter scale.
“It is still, barring injury, basically the side that got thumped in the World Cup final in 2019 — they don’t seem to have progressed or regenerated.
“The results have flattered to deceive. Things needed shaking up, not just tweaking. England have looked a tired, uninspired outfit ever since. It feels like they are in a rut.”
‘Playing rubbish is not an option.’
England number eight Billy Vunipola came out during the week and admitted that he was “playing rubbish” so far in this Six Nations, in a surprisingly honest account of his own form.
Woodward, who coached England to Rugby World Cup success in 2003, believes Vunipola’s admission is a sign that Jones is overly-reluctant to drop out of form players.
“There is such a thing as being too loyal to your players and I fear Eddie is guilty of that. It was, for example, quite startling this week to read Billy Vunipola admit he has been ‘playing rubbish’,” Woodward commented.
“Now credit to Billy for his honesty but you must question what’s going on.
“If Billy knows how poorly he’s been playing, everybody in the team and coaching staff will also know. Why is it that some players in the group seem immune from being dropped? Nobody in rugby history has been undroppable.
“England are not a club side. ‘Playing rubbish’ is not an option for any player or his coach.”
Should England lose to Wales on Saturday their Six Nations title hopes are all but over, while Wayne Pivac’s side will be one step close to a Grand Slam, having been largely written off before the championship.