Eddie Jones must be bold against Springboks as All Blacks rescue act offers England attacking blueprint

Eddie Jones must be bold against Springboks as All Blacks rescue act offers England attacking blueprint

England delivered an eight-minute blueprint for World Cup glory in Saturday’s stunning rescue act against New Zealand.

Three tries in next to no time snatched an in truth undeserved 25-25 draw with the All Blacks. But now these must be three tries that plot the way forward for Eddie Jones’ attack.

England ended the match with three playmakers in their backline, and must be bold enough to take that approach forward from the off. Do not simply stick with the Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell axis, add an extra pivot in Henry Slade to those attacking levers too.

Start Slade at full-back and Freddie Steward on the wing – but allow the pair to swap over as required. Steward can defend and counter from 15 to capitalise on his aerial mastery, while Slade can operate from full-back in a more structured attack.

England’s madcap draw threw up shades of the 2007 World Cup, as the gameplan appeared to be abandoned. While in 2007 England’s senior players led a mutiny to redraw attacking plans, on Saturday against New Zealand the volte-face was more of a kneejerk bailout.

Eddie Jones must find a way to get Henry Slade into England’s starting XV (Getty Images)
Eddie Jones must find a way to get Henry Slade into England’s starting XV (Getty Images)

England steadied a listing ship by casting out caution entirely, with Smith suddenly coming alive at the gainline. Captain Farrell battled manfully through a leg knock on a 100th cap to remember, but his slight inhibition forced England’s hand.

Smith had to discard any deference to the senior man and simply scythe away as comes naturally at Harlequins. Slade’s addition off the bench allowed England the confidence to distribute from tramline to tramline, handing Farrell more licence to fix himself in the middle of all this.

Mako Vunipola and David Ribbans’ stellar ball-carrying alleviated any pressure on Farrell to cut the line, allowing him to feed off the pace and angles around him. Suddenly the variety in England’s playmakers became a smooth operation and not an awkward double joint.

Yes, Beauden Barrett’s yellow card created numerical advantage, but New Zealand should still have found a way to thwart England for the two scores that came in his absence. Instead the cool and calm All Blacks became the flustered and flummoxed New Zealand.

Farrell’s biggest weapons at 12 remain his distribution and game sense. Offer pace and power options on both his shoulders, and watch him deliver in devastating fashion.

Erik Ten Hag might just have coaxed a tune and a hatful of goals out of Cristiano Ronaldo had he flanked the Portugal veteran with pacy inside forwards, with wing backs to stretch the pitch.

Head coach Jones can do something similar with Farrell at 12 to unlock England’s attack, and deliver the “vertical rugby” that New Zealand assistant Joe Schmidt so craves.

Former Ireland boss Schmidt has revolutionised New Zealand’s attacking breakdown work in next to no time, to the surprise of no one anywhere. Ireland were the world’s best attacking rucking side under Schmidt, and now New Zealand could easily argue that tag.

For much of this match Jones’ men sent one-up runners into contact too far away from support. For 72 minutes New Zealand ate this up, then everything changed.

Rieko Ioane’s try from Beauden Barrett’s kick-pass to Caleb Clarke should have put this tie to bed for the All Blacks. England launched that last-gasp rally however, with Will Stuart crossing twice, either side of a score for full-back Steward.

England’s youngsters let loose, but crucially set Farrell free too. Head coach Jones puffed the air out of his cheeks to meet Farrell on the pitch at full-time. Now he needs to release the valve on his backline.