Australia vs England: Eddie Jones’ new relaxed approach to tour could pay dividends with Sydney series decider

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Eddie Jones on Coogee Beach ahead of the Test decider  (AP)
Eddie Jones on Coogee Beach ahead of the Test decider (AP)

Eddie Jones has a reputation for cracking the whip but he has given his England a pretty free rein off the pitch on this tour Down Under.

On Saturday, we will find out if the new caring Eddie translates to hard results on the pitch and a series win over Australia.

Gone are the 5am text messages and the double training sessions, as Jones has let his squad knock off at lunchtime to go and see something of this country. Veteran scrum-half Danny Care admitted he had never been on an England trip when he had so much free time, and the mood around the camp has been buoyant since the opening 30-28 defeat in Perth, even with injuries to key personnel Tom Curry, Maro Itoje and Sam Underhill.

Care, at 35, has been recalled to the starting line-up for tomorrow’s final game against the Wallabies after being on the bench for the 25-17 win in Brisbane last weekend. The Harlequin is in at the expense of Leicester’s Jack van Poortvliet, who is one of a band of players muscling their way into the World Cup picture on this trip.

Jones’s rationale is that Care will provide some spark and tempo in the first hour, and he backed Van Poortvliet to do the same when he comes on. The presence of a New Zealand referee, Paul Williams, who is known for liking quick ruck ball, did Care’s cause no harm, either, according to Jones.

The holes made by the enforced absences of Underhill and Itoje are filled by two players, Northampton flanker Lewis Ludlam and Leicester lock Ollie Chessum, who give the impression they would not volunteer for the training-free afternoon on this trip. Ludlam is all graft and ball carrying, while Chessum, on his first start and at 21, is no Itoje but is mobile, will gain yards with ball in hand and he comes from a club where set-piece is king.

Both have got here the hard way. Ludlam was released by the Saints academy as a youngster and Chessum had to serve his time in the Championship with Nottingham.

Jones is sure this series will be decided in the last 20 minutes of tomorrow’s game and the bench will be crucial. South Africa won a World Cup, in 2019, with their ‘Bomb Squad’, a team within a team, coming on and causing chaos. Tomorrow’s replacements, which include some gnarled veterans plus 21-year-old Van Poortvliet, 20-year-old Will Joseph and Henry Arundell, still a teenager, can do some damage in the final quarter.

Jones said: “We are developing our own Bomb Squad with Luke Cowan-Dickie and Mako Vunipola coming off the bench, JVP and Arundell. Arundell is so quick he can give two penalties in one action. Have you seen a winger give two penalties in one action? He scored a couple of 100m tries at training and is an incredible young talent. He has a lot to learn but he is learning all the time.”

Jones knows his cricket, and the venue for this match is a place where he spent many days as a youngster watching his hero, Ian Chappell, the former Australia cricket captain.

Ollie Chessum (Getty Images)
Ollie Chessum (Getty Images)

The last time England clinched a series at the Sydney Cricket Ground was in 2011 and they were wearing white then, but they had long trousers and pads on instead of rugby shirts and gum shields.

Andrew Strauss’s Ashes winners headed to the SCG 2-1 up and thumped Australia by an innings and 83 runs to clinch the series. Hang an innings win here, Jones would take a one-point­­ victory at the same venue to scramble over the line.

Any chat about the head coach’s future was virtually put to bed by last weekend’s win which set up this series decider, but a triumph in Sydney, where Jones grew up, would smash such talk over the fence.

The last time the England rugby team played at the iconic venue was in 1975 when they lost 16-9 as a prelude to the Battle of Ballymore in Brisbane a week later, and the last Test played there was in 1986.

What we’ve tried to do on this tour is get everything done by midday, then let the boys relax.

The SCG is being used, probably for the final time as an international rugby union venue, as the neighbouring Sydney Football Ground is under reconstruction and not due to open until the autumn. A win here would be a decent way to sign off at one of sport’s most iconic venues and would be a vindication of Jones’s new relaxed approach.

Earlier in the week, Jones met up with Nick Farr-Jones, the 1991 World Cup-winning captain with Australia who might have fitted into the current England regime.

“He was saying if he was a rugby player now, he wouldn’t play because of the monotony of training,” said Jones.

“What we’ve tried to do on this tour is get everything done by midday, then let the boys relax. We’ve got some older and younger players and we want both to enjoy the tour. I think they have – and you will see that in our performance.”

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