Lawrence Dallaglio column: Eddie Jones has twisted when he should have stuck... it’s all a bit erratic

·3-min read
 (AP)
(AP)

England desperately need a win — any win — which is why I was slightly surprised by the team Eddie Jones has selected to face Australia on Saturday.

England have lost their last three games, as well as a non-cap game against the Barbarians. A big series is on the line and there is an appetite for results among England fans. Lose this game, the series is over, and it suddenly feels a long tour. Eddie’s rhetoric, though, is all about the World Cup next year.

There are fewer than 15 games to go until then, so it is absolutely fair enough to be thinking about it. You want your pairings and partnerships to be coming together at this stage.

Instead, he is chopping and changing. It feels a bit erratic, and lacking stability. And the results are not coming either.

England lost last week, but I thought Jones picked a team that was pretty much spot-on. It was a good-looking side that did not execute. The art, then, is knowing when to stick or twist.

I would have backed the same group — with the exception of the concussed Tom Curry, of course — and trusted the players to put things right.

Instead, Eddie has twisted and made wholesale change.

He has brought in Jack van Poortvliet at scrum-half, but he was third choice for Leicester at the end of the season. He is one for the future, and did well off the bench last week, but this is a huge ask. Danny Care can feel a bit hard done by, having spent last week trying to force quicker ball.

I really like Tommy Freeman, who comes in on the wing after an excellent season with Northampton and must go looking for the ball in a manner that Joe Cokanasiga did not. And Guy Porter joins Owen Farrell in the centre, at the expense of Joe Marchant, who has been so good this year but is dumped after one poor game. He and Cokanasiga will hope that Jones is in a forgiving mood, because we have seen with Alex Lozowski that it can be hard to get back in.

The axis of Marcus Smith and Farrell has to start to come good. Smith has not been helped by the inconsistency of selection around him. This is his 11th Test, and van Poortvliet is his fourth different scrum-half, and tomorrow he has his eighth centre pairing. It is hardly conducive to building relationships.

Jack van Poortvliet in action in the opening defeat to Australia (Getty Images)
Jack van Poortvliet in action in the opening defeat to Australia (Getty Images)

Porter brings some welcome punch and can break the gainline. There are uncanny parallels to 2018, when ­England won just twice in the Six Nations, lost to the Barbarians, then lost the first two games in South Africa.

Jones considers that tour, and the changes implemented on it, the start of a charge that took them to the World Cup Final. Perhaps these changes will come off and we will look back and wonder why we were worried.

This is a good Australia side, no more than that. They are still early in their development and have had their own problems, with a raft of changes due to injury and suspension.

England lost last week because they were inaccurate, ill-disciplined and clunky in attack because of the slow ball they received. There are significant improvements to make but, if they do, they should level the series.

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