England errors are fixable but disjointed attack the biggest worry after shock Argentina defeat

England errors are fixable but disjointed attack the biggest worry after shock Argentina defeat

Eddie Jones did not even put up a fight. The natural-born combatant rejected any verbal sparring, put down his guard and accepted that England only had themselves to blame for “elementary mistakes”.

A string of schoolboy errors led to England’s defeat by Argentina at Twickenham; a basic botch-job for just the Pumas’ second win over England at their west London fortress. No argument, no debate: just not good enough. But Jones insists England’s individual errors can all be quickly fixed.

Emiliano Boffelli scored six penalties from those England errors, and swept in for a smart try from another miscalculation from the hosts. Santiago Carreras capitalised on an errant Owen Farrell pass for another try, and though England crossed through Joe Cokanasiga and Jack van Poortvliet, the home side failed to turn the tide.

England’s individual errors are indeed eminently fixable, just as Jones asserted. But his side’s attack was also worryingly disjointed. Several clunky attacking hinges need oiling, in which context greasing England’s wheels will not be nearly as facile as simply smoothing out the rough edges of cheap knock-ons and ruck penalties.

England are likely to stick with the Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell pairing despite shock defeat (Getty Images)
England are likely to stick with the Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell pairing despite shock defeat (Getty Images)

The taskmaster coach in Jones could not resist conceding he will relish seeing how his England players react to having their backs against the wall this week. Japan will pitch up at Twickenham on Saturday scenting blood, desperate to pounce on any indecision or lack of conviction.

A week is a long time in Test rugby, declared Jones, vowing that England will be back to their belligerent best to face the Brave Blossoms. To find form, fluency and flair again, however, they must fix their pattern play. Jones insisted that England’s problems were not system-based or structural, but neither the back-five of the pack nor the midfield kicked fully into gear against the powerful and dogged Pumas.

Alex Coles will be better for having gone through his Test debut, with the Northampton lock shaking off several early errors for a creditable senior bow. England must improve the dynamism in the back of the pack, though, with the right balance between lock duo Coles and Jonny Hill, and Maro Itoje at six yet to be achieved.

This is a group of inside backs that can still thrive together, but Jones and his fellow coaches are yet to crack that code

Marcus Smith, Farrell and Manu Tuilagi remains an enticing midfield trio, but never quite worked here. Add Ben Youngs at nine to that blend and, so far, the attributes of England’s main axes appear misaligned. Youngs and Farrell prefer to create from depth, lingering on the ball just long enough to allow team-mates to cut lines off them. Smith and Tuilagi crave the high-octane gain-line operation, to hit hard, flat and fast.

This is a group of inside backs that can still thrive together, but Jones and his fellow coaches are yet to crack that code. That set-up remains enticing, as much for individual talents as the notion of covering all midfield bases.

The four players counteracted each other on Sunday though, their differences jarring in defeat. There’s a temptation to shift Tuilagi to 12 and start Henry Slade at 13, and yet Jones and many neutral voices keep on coming back to that Smith-Farrell pairing. England are likely to stick – for now.