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Jones’ side must get the basics right first


intermittent threat of scoring tries.

For the majority of the game against France, Ireland were the better team. They had superior field position but could not fashion anything more than penalty kicks and only the high-ball option looked likely to produce a try. This issue is not confined to this game, where the weather made it more difficult to move the ball. It has been a problem for a couple of seasons. When Ireland’s tactical kicking game is exact and their chasing game at its most effective, they can turn errors into scores. If both are not precise or opponents are good enough to cope under pressure, Ireland need to have alternatives to score.

To possess these alternatives the team cannot turn to them as an afterthought; they need to be as familiar as their pressure game. When all the injured players return, Ireland will be a far better team but this tactical conundrum will remain unless it is addressed.

As for England, it was a mixed bag. Last week, against Scotland, their setpiece and driving maul were good. Against Italy on Sunday, neither scrum nor line out was secure and the failure of successive driving mauls was, frankly, embarrassing for players of this quality. Driving a maul does require technique and skill, it is not mere force. Yet it is something that can largely be perfected by rote and concentration and there is no excuse for not executing it.

The same point can be made about England’s penalty count, and this also is not an instant issue. So far England have played arguably the two weakest sides in the tournament, but against their remaining opponents their error and penalty counts will make winning difficult.

Yet, it was not all bad. It was a comfortable win, and Italy’s remaining opponents are unlikely to score more points or register more tries. Jonathan Joseph added power to his elusiveness while recording a hat trick of tries. The raft of second-half substitutions allowed the new caps a comfortable run out and they made an impact.

England fans are waiting for Eddie Jones, the head coach, to work his magic and conjure a devastating new brand of rugby. At present, he has egregious challenges to right deficiencies in the old brand. Let’s walk properly before we try to run.

Sport Six Nations




Daily Telegraph