LONDON – Forward power rather than “fancy” rugby holds the key to England’s chances of success in the Six Nations Championship, according to new head coach Eddie Jones.
Traditionally, England has been known for the strength of its forwards and Jones, the first foreigner to coach the side, wants to restore that reputation having been appointed after the team’s first-round exit at last year’s World Cup saw former boss Stuart Lancaster fired.
“The Six Nations is about contest,” said Jones, speaking at the tournament launch on Wednesday.
“It’s a contest at the set piece and a contest at the breakdown,” the Australian added.
“It’s never been a tournament known for its continuity, until the last day of last year when everyone decided to throw the toys out,” he said in a reference to a remarkable final round where 27 tries were scored in three matches, with Ireland winning the tournament on points difference.
Jones insisted: “We have a lot of work to do but with the talent we have I’m confident that we can get the fear factor back of having that dominant set piece.”
The former Australia and Japan coach knows better than anyone that he will be judged on results, with England having won the Six Nations just once since its World Cup-winning year of 2003.
“When you first get married, you go on honeymoon, but a honeymoon is not like real life,” said Jones.
“Anyone who is married knows that. Married life is tough. You have to take, you have to give and make compromises. You have to work out a way to make things happen.
“When I stand up in the team room for the first time, everyone is nodding and saying ‘yes, yes’. Of course they are. But I know that’s not the real situation. I know we’ll have our differences.
“We’ll work it out and find out a way to make the team successful. It’s a nice honeymoon at the moment.”
Jones, however, was well aware that the honeymoon could end with his first match in charge which sees England away to Scotland in Edinburgh on Feb. 6 for the latest edition of rugby union’s oldest test fixture.
Scotland came within minutes of beating eventual finalist Australia at the World Cup before losing in the last eight and Jones said: “It’s a Calcutta Cup game. Scotland are the form side of Europe. They’re playing at home. We know it will be a tough game up there.
“We’re picking a (squad of) 23 to do battle at Murrayfield, in front of 65,000 Scottish people who will be going crazy and that’s pressure. We need players with the skills to be able to cope with that.”
At last year’s World Cup in England no European side made it to the semifinals, with Jones observing: “At the moment the Southern Hemisphere teams are probably three-to-five percent better than the Northern Hemisphere teams, but that can be turned around in eight weeks.”