How Eddie Jones turned England flops into a world-class team

CHRIS JONES

Eddie Jones took over the England reins after disastrous World Cup campaign and his impact has been remarkable.

In little over 15 months, England team are on the verge of greatness, here's how the Australian's four stages of recovery have put his players in pursuit of current world No1s New Zealand.

England win the 2016 Grand Slam

England were ranked eighth in the world when Eddie Jones took over in November 2015 and said the team did not contain any world-class players.

The Australian set out his stall very early with the appointment as skipper of Dylan Hartley, a player with more than a year of bans on his rap sheet.Out went Chris Robshaw, the safe pair of hands chosen by Stuart Lancaster, because Jones wanted to shake things up - something he achieved with the elevation of Hartley.

He made some big early selection calls, too, giving Maro Itoje a key role and opting for the George Ford-Owen Farrell midfield option to field two ball players. And, after four second-place finishes in the Six Nations and a failed World Cup campaign under Lancaster, the Grand Slam was won.

He told Billy Vunipola to play “like a Tongan” and the Saracens No8, who had not enjoyed the 2015 World Cup, turned in a series of outstanding performances as he played with a smile on his face alongside Farrell and Itoje.

Jones (below) quickly imposed his character on the team and the coaching staff. It was clear that he had the final say in every aspect of the national squad — and anyone who didn’t pull their weight was ejected.

Jones appointed Farrell and Mike Brown as vice captains — and they exuded the hard-nosed approach he wanted — but he also made Vunipola a second in command to get his voice heard in team meetings.

Right from the start, Jones spoke individually to players, finding out what did and didn’t work in motivating them, while making it clear his sole aim was to ensure England got better every training session. Standing still was not an option and a first Slam was the early reward.

England's Test whitewash of Australia

Next came the chance for Jones to take his new team “home”, where the locals were desperate to take the former national coach down a peg or two. He responded with a game plan that was based on ferocious defence allied to the confidence generated by the Slam.

Jones said his players would deliver rugby’s version of Bodyline — the first of many comparisons to cricket from the coach. Prop Joe Marler pulled out of the tour, knowing he could not give Jones what he wanted due to fatigue and the coach admired his honesty. It didn’t count against him.

Luther Burrell was taken off early in the First Test and would disappear from the radar. Teimana Harrison was hauled off after 31 minutes of the Third Test because Jones recognised he was not able to do his job. This ruthless attitude to selection ensured no one became complacent.

Alex Goode went on tour as the Premiership Player of the Season but that didn’t impress Jones, who ignored calls from outside the squad to change his full-back, Mike Brown. No one tells Jones what to do.

Ending the year unbeaten after Autumn tests

Jones went into the Tests against South Africa, Argentina, Fiji and Australia without key forwards Itoje, George Kruis and Mako Vunipola, while Billy Vunipola required knee surgery following the Argentina clash.

But Jones’ men overcame every obstacle and the use of the replacements’ bench became a key feature of the game plan.

A fourth victory of the year over his fellow countrymen meant England ended the year unbeaten and ranked No2 behind New Zealand.

Jones still claimed he did not have many world-class players at his disposal and his eyes, he insisted, were on becoming No1 and winning the 2019 World Cup.

2017 Six Nations crown... back-to-back Grand Slams?

Yet more injuries made England appear vulnerable going into a championship. Jones’ preferred back row of Robshaw, Vunipola and James Haskell was torn apart by injury and Kruis was also ruled out by a knee problem.

The coach again showed his skill at selection, ignoring popular opinion and sticking to his own beliefs, which included moving Itoje to flanker but asking him to pack down in the second row for scrums.

Jones dealt with criticism of Hartley’s form by picking him in every game and having admitted the attack would be the final area he had to fix, inspired the team to run in seven tries against Scotland to equal New Zealand’s world record of 18 successive wins.

In little over 15 months, Eddie Jones’ team are on the verge of greatness.

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