Jones the man for England despite criticism says Haskell

James Haskell believes there is no better man to take England to the Rugby World Cup next year.
James Haskell believes there is no better man to take England to the Rugby World Cup next year.

By Tom Masters

James Haskell insists Eddie Jones is the right man to lead England into next year’s World Cup regardless of results in the upcoming Autumn Nations Series.

The former Wasps star, 37, earned 77 England caps throughout a glittering career, thriving under Jones during both their 2016 Six Nations Grand Slam and the 3-0 series victory over Australia in the same year.

Jones has come under scrutiny after consecutive Six Nations campaigns with just two victories, and faces a decisive Autumn Nations Series in which England will play Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.

And Haskell believes no matter what the results will be, his former coach is the correct figure to lead his side into battle in France next autumn.

He said: “Bizarrely, there is always so much pressure on Eddie.

“I just hope we drop the whole ‘get rid of Eddie’ thing in the autumn, regardless of the score, regardless of the results.

“There is no better man to take a team to a World Cup than a man who has been to three finals – winning one and losing two and this is his fourth opportunity.

“I think England are in a much better place from where they were a little while ago.

“In 2018 we had the same thing with a period of change and he weathered it, but I think heading into this autumn it would be good to see where he is at.

“See some of the squad players and how they get on and some of the transitions and I think also it will be good to see which of those out of the squad will go on and make it.”

Haskell also believes England are more than suitably equipped in the back row – his area of expertise – but says his former Northampton Saints teammate Lewis Ludlam deserves more credit.

Haskell, speaking at special event alongside Mike Tindall at Aylesbury RFC as part of the RFU’s ‘Play Together, Stay Together’ initiative, added: “For me, Billy Vunipola capitalised on his tour to Australia and I think he will be nailed on to start.

“Sam Simmonds has had that impact role, and I’d never look past Tom Curry who is just incredible.

“One player I think deserves more recognition would be Lewis Ludlam - he’s carving it up for Northampton, every time he plays for England, especially in Australia, I think he did really well.

“For me, the back row balance has always been far more important than numbers on your back, and actually I think with Lewis you get a very destructive tackler and actually a very good ball carrier.

“In Billy, you know what you’re going to get and Tom Curry I think adds that quite nice balance, so I would start with those three if I was selecting – but I am definitely not selecting so it doesn’t matter!

“In a World Cup it is all about performing at the right time and having the ability to have multi-purpose players in regards to their position.

“So each one of those players I’ve just mentioned can do that, they can all play across the back row, Tom Curry has played in all three positions, Sam Underhill is coming back into fitness I saw him the other day.

“Alex Dombrandt has been so unlucky, he is one of my favourite players at the moment, and I cannot wait to see him come back,

“I think it is only going to add competition to the squad, and the fact you have Courtney and Maro that can both double up, so I think we’re in a really good position.”

The RFU’s Play Together, Stay Together campaign is aimed at reminding rugby fans of all the benefits that come with playing rugby. Whether it’s the physical benefits of regaining your fitness, or the mental benefits of being surrounded by a like-minded group of people, there’s always a reason to head back to your local club.