Eddie Jones is such an innovator in training and has even learned from Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola! The England coach should transfer some of that flair onto the pitch ahead of Saturday’s curtain-raising clash against old foes Scotland
- England boss Eddie Jones is one of the most innovative coaches off the pitch
- But that creativity and flair doesn’t seem to be translating onto the rugby field
- England should try out more attacking tactics before they start losing matches
On the training pitch, Eddie Jones is one of the most innovative coaches in the game. He is full of surprises.
Before we went on tour to South Africa, for example, he wanted to make sure we were ready for a hostile reception. There’s a short walk between England’s team hotel and the training centre and he tried to make it feel like Johannesburg.
There were smoking South African braais set up in the back of pick-up trucks, like you get outside their stadiums. Music was blasting out and he made all of the staff wear Springboks kit and shout abuse at us in Afrikaans.
England boss Eddie Jones is one of the most innovative coaches and often tries new methods
You never know what to expect. He used to keep a tennis ball in his pocket. In meetings, he would randomly chuck this ball at people and shout ‘Catch!’ to make sure they were paying attention.
He loves to get out there and look at other sports. Last week, he was talking about how he’d been speaking to Dave Brailsford and Arsene Wenger. When he spent some time with Pep Guardiola once, he noticed how close Guardiola got to the action in training.
Most head coaches like to stand back and observe, but not Guardiola. After that, Eddie would get so involved with the sessions that you would see him get smashed out of rucks by guys three times his size.
But that creativity and flair doesn’t currently seem to be translating itself onto the rugby field
All of that innovation is fantastic, but I’d like to see it transferred to the actual match. It’s pretty clear and obvious how England play at the moment — power, set piece, limited phases in their own half, high pressure kick-chase.
They do it well and it’s winning matches, but it didn’t win the World Cup. England didn’t have a Plan B at the World Cup and I still don’t think they have one now.
I hear Eddie talking about rugby being in a defensive phase, which shapes how you play. There’s an element of truth in that, but Eddie is one of the best coaches in the world.
So why can’t he be the guy who forces it back into an attacking phase? We always wait for someone else to do it. It’s usually the All Blacks. Why can’t it be England for once?
England are winning games at the moment, so there’s no real pressure on Eddie to make major changes. France have got a few key injuries, so England should be favourites to win the Six Nations.
Eddie’s comfortable with the players he’s got and he’s comfortable with the style they play. Exciting guys like Paolo Odogwu and Harry Randall have been called up, which is a positive statement. But you’ve got to play to their strengths.
Why should England wait until they’re losing a game to try different tactics? They already have a back-line full of game breakers but these guys are just not given enough chances to show it.
If Tom Curry or Maro Itoje win a turnover, the first thought should not be to kick the ball away. It’s conservative and low risk. England have the players, but they need some freedom to move the ball and take people on.
England have several exciting picks in the squad but Mike Brown would like to see Ben Earl play
I don’t think there will be too many surprises in the back line in the team to face Scotland — Ben Youngs, George Ford, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Henry Slade, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly. Tried and tested.
The one guy who I’d like to see start is Ben Earl. With Sam Underhill injured, I’d like to see what Earl can do against Hamish Watson. We talk about England offering an attacking edge and Earl can add to that.
For a forward, he has a real X-factor in attack. It’s like having an extra centre on the pitch because he’s so quick and skilful, while also having a genuine poacher threat at the breakdown which is crucial.
This will be the first game of the tournament and getting off to a winning start sets the tone. Round two against Italy is the time to throw in guys like Max Malins and possibly Odogwu, if he impresses in Eddie’s tough training camp.
Finn gets my vote at No 10
For me, Finn Russell should be the starting 10 for the Lions this summer. The main man.
Whenever the Six Nations falls in a Lions year everyone ups their game. Every player who is eligible normally gets a letter saying they are in consideration and it’s a real motivator.
You try to put it to the back of your mind but it’s hard not to have a peek at who everyone picks in their Lions XV.
Only one Scotsman and one Welshman make their way into Brown’s current Lions fifteen
How can England stop Russell?
In training this week, there will be a huge amount of focus on Finn Russell. He is the guy who can make Scotland tick at Twickenham next Saturday.
If Russell plays well, Scotland play well. He’s class. He can do things no one else can do. He sees space nobody else sees, he has the best short-kicking game in the world and his range of passing killed us in 2018.
Russell will face an England defence that puts unbelievable pressure on the playmakers. Someone will be wearing a red bib in training this week, pretending to be Russell, and guys like Curry and Itoje will be all over him.
They will aim to make him drop deeper behind the gain line. He’s best when he’s at the gain line, taking on defenders.
England have to try to nullify Finn Russell to limit Scotland’s chances in the Six Nations clash
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