In South Africa, Eddie Jones will demand improvement from the 5th placed finish in the Six Nations.
Jones has always stated that his goal is to win the World Cup with England. Here are three key areas that need to be addressed for this to happen:
England’s lack of a genuine world class 7 is detrimental to their success.
Even as far back as 2015, there were cries for Lancaster to activate the ‘exceptional circumstance’ clause and select Steffon Armitage.
Under Jones’ reign, England have mostly played with two ‘6 and 1/2s’ in Haskell and Robshaw or with Lawes, a 2nd row, at 6 more recently. When England were winning collisions this worked fine. However, without this dominance up front, opposition with true opensides began to slow ball down and claim turnovers.
This was fully exposed against Scotland through Barclay and Watson. Scotland won thirteen turnovers within the game, per ESPN, which suffocated England.
These results evidently show that playing without a natural 7 is not sustainable unless England are on the front foot. Underhill is in the lead if Jones chooses a 7 but is injured. Jones should allow Tom Curry to stake his claim as a genuine choice for the World Cup and use the 2019 Six Nations to decide between Underhill and Curry as England’s 7 for Japan.
Farrell has been named captain in the place of the concussed Hartley. During the Six Nations, Farrell stepped up and led through example with his physicality whilst other players shrunk.
Mike Brown could cement his place within the World Cup squad as his leadership qualities are plainly important. What Mike Brown may lack in x factor when compared to Watson or Daly he makes up for with tenacity, and it was this quality that was lacking when England lost to France.
Players of the highest quality need to begin to demonstrate better leadership qualities to drag England through tough victories. Launchbury, Itoje and Youngs need to share the burden of leading England to victory with Farrell.
Hurricanes captain Brad Shields could expand the leadership group for the World Cup and this tour will integrate him into the side.
A stronger leadership group will be vital if England are going to win the World Cup.
Recently England’s attack has been blunt. Subsequently, Jones has brought in Scott Wisemantel as an attack coach.
Furthermore, Cipriani has been selected for the tour, showing an intent by Jones to sharpen England’s attack. Cipriani is the form fly-half in the Premiership and will drive England’s backline.
Together, Cipriani and Farrell would enable England to bring May, Daly, and Solomona into the game, providing England with more threat.
Billy Vunipola is an immeasurable boost for this England side. Vunipola is a truly world class operator at 8 and will give England momentum and provide the perfect platform for Cipriani to attack off.
Cipriani could earn Jones’ trust this on tour and become a realistic option for Japan.