Rugby Union

Five ways Eddie Jones has transformed England from World Cup flops to Grand Slam Champions

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Football News

England secured their first grand slam since 2003 on Saturday night with a hard-fought 31-21 win over a much improved French team.

Although not at their fluid best, Eddie Jones' men did enough to secure a historic victory in the French capital.

Since the disastrous World Cup campaign in their own backyard, this is quite the transformation for an England side who were lambasted just a few months ago.


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But what contributed towards such a dramatic change in fortune? Here are five major factors, which contributed to England's success:

1. Pragmatic approach adopted

Upon Eddie Jones' appointment, the experienced Australian reinforced the notion that he wanted England to adopt a pragmatic approach to their game. His desire to play to the conditions and context of the game was evident throughout the Six Nations campaign.

Unlike the Lancaster regime, England showed the sort of maturity needed in test rugby. The French game is a testament to this. Despite not being at their fluid best in the backline, George Ford played territory very well in the last quarter to ensure France were pegged back in their own half.

Conversely England under Lancaster were quite the opposite. Lancaster was rigid in his approach: all too often he stuck to his processes, with school teacher-like precision. His insistence for wholesale changes at the hour mark often changed the dynamic and were usually unnecessary (especially when in a winning position).

Whilst England were guilty of this against Wales in the penultimate game, they resisted against the French and it paid dividends.

Also, England tended to come away with points at given opportunities. The All Blacks are masters at keeping the 'scoreboard ticking over' and converting territory into points. This really helped pile pressure on England's opponents and gave them an edge in tight situations.

2. Understanding the importance of the set-piece

Eddie Jones understands that the basics underpin successful test sides. Whilst New Zealand have breathtaking individual talent and play an irresistible brand of rugby, their set-piece also happens to be the best in the business.

Jones quickly identified the set-piece as a key area for England to excel. The successful England teams of yesteryear have all excelled in this area and without this, the backs are devoid of a platform from which to work from.

England's scrummaging has also been much improved. The omission of Tom Youngs from the squad was a testament to the fact Jones views the set-piece as a priority. Whilst Youngs is fantastic in the loose, both his scrummaging and throwing in from the line-out, leaves a lot to be desired.

The work of Forwards Coach Steve Borthwick can not be undervalued either. England's line-out was fantastic throughout, with the impressive George Kruis and Maro Itoje stand out performers. Not only did this give England a fantastic platform in attack, but the steals sapped momentum from the opposition.

3. Effective man management

Dylan Hartley has endured quite the transformation under Eddie Jones. The latter describes his captain as a 'likeable rogue' and the 'rogue' in him certainly can not be questioned.

Despite a shocking disciplinary record, Jones instated Hartley as his captain, with the intention of giving England a real edge to their game: a prickly and abrasive style, embodied by the Northampton Saints hooker.

It had the desired effect. Hartley was fantastic throughout the tournament and really excelled with the added responsibility. If Chris Robshaw was a mascot for Lancaster (impeccably behaved and politically correct), then Hartley is certainly characteristic of Eddie Jones' more confrontational and edgy style.

Elsewhere, number eight Billy Vunipola was simply sensational from the outset. The Saracens man look revitalised: fitter and stronger under Jones. The Australian enabled Vunipola the freedom to really take responsibility and consistently get over the gain line.

Perhaps the best bit of man management was Jones' reserved praise for the 'colossal' Robshaw. The Harlequins man personified the disastrous World Cup campaign in many ways, but Jones ensured this would not linger. This was a masterful touch from the Aussie, which subtly helped get the press and public back on his side.

4. Consistency in selection

Eddie Jones was very consistent in his selection, which undoubtedly helped England. The 10, 12 combination of Ford and Farrell worked in England's favour.

Farrell at 12, was an inspired selection - his presence was invaluable with his accurate kicking from the tee also offering England a valuable exit strategy. In Farrell, England also have a fantastic distributor.

The advantage of having two decision makers in midfield was clear to see. England were able to seamlessly bring their back three into play, in a way previously not seen.

The surprise inclusion of Sam Burgess at the World Cup was proof of this. Defences in test rugby are so hard to break down these days that a simple battering ram approach will not suffice. If you look at other world-class centres, such as Ma'a Nonu and Sony Bill Williams, there's so much more to their game than this.

Whilst in the long-term this may not be the answer, it was the right call for the tournament. The introduction of Manu Tuilagi against Wales really hurt England: the 10, 12 axis was disrupted and this really altered England's gameplan.

Although impact subs are a very important part of the game, the context of the game needs to be considered first. On the whole, Jones judged the context fairly well, but there is room for improvement here.

5. Refreshing approach: Politically incorrect!

Whilst this may seem inconsequential, this played a massive role in the psychology of the championship and England. All too often under Lancaster, England were the victim of the mind games from Warren Gatland amongst others.

Jones came in and ripped up the rule book on this one, though. He subtly got into the opposition's head with digs about Wales' scrummaging and was unforgiving in wanting to 'smack' Italy.

This is a stark contrast to Lancaster: a diplomat, who personified the all too often polite English attitude.

Instead, Jones brought a winning ability, an ability to go for the jugular, the attitude to win at all costs.

And it worked.

Under Lancaster, England were the nearly men. Jones has finally delivered something tangible for the years of promise previously shown.

Lancaster must undoubtedly take some credit for England's success here, but the contribution of Jones in his short tenure must not be undervalued, either.

There is definite room for improvement for an England side looking to challenge the Southern Hemisphere's elite. At least now, though, they have a strong platform from which they can build from.

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IRB Rugby World Cup
England Rugby
Owen Farrell
Rugby Union
Jonny Wilkinson
Six Nations

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