Eddie Jones set for crunch England talks with management after World Cup final failure


Eddie Jones is to sit down with England management to dissect their Rugby World Cup final loss to South Africa.

When Eddie Jones sits down with his management team at Twickenham tomorrow to sift through the wreckage of what might have been in Yokohama, the review will almost as painful as the crushing let-down of the Rugby World Cup final itself. 

For England it will be Investigation Icarus – the team that flew too close to the sun and crashed back down to earth.

In the search for reasons Jones will go over the emotional slump from the semi-final high and the possibility that a team which dethroned the world champions a week previously got ahead of itself going into the final. 

He will look into the muddled thinking and execution on the field and the logistics failure off it which saw a team that prides itself on its attention to detail arrive 20 minutes later than scheduled for its biggest game.

At the top of the agenda though will be the scrum.

For all the new horizons of a Japanese World Cup, rugby union still ends where it starts – with the physical battle. Lose that against most sides and a team is struggling to win the game; lose that against South Africa and you are squelched under a giant green steamroller.

England conceded a catastrophic five scrum penalties on Saturday night. A weapon became a weakness confronted by a magnificent Springbok pack right on the emotional edge and England paid the price in gold.

“I don’t know why. It’s sport. We’ve got 23 individuals, they’ve got 23 individuals and the psychological level of teams is never constant,” said England coach Eddie Jones.

“They are always changing. We weren’t there on the day. And we got caught.

“They won a significant area of the game which was the scrum which tended to trickle down into the rest of the game. 

“That game was about getting on the front foot and we couldn’t get on the front foot, and if you can’t get on the front foot then you look like a team that lacks ideas, lacks energy, looks tired – all those things come into play.

“The reality is something slightly wasn’t right and we couldn’t fix it on the field. That happens.

“Full credit to South Africa they scrummed well and that’s the game.”

Would it all have unfolded differently for England had Maro Itoje not accidentally knocked off Kyle Sinckler with the game in its infancy? Possibly. As it was poor Dan Cole had to suffer in the grasp of the destructive Tendai Mtawarira – aka The Beast.

“Kyle has has had a great World Cup. And for him to come off so early in the game was unfortunate,” said Mtawarira, who at 34, signed off his Test career in style.

“As rugby players, we never enjoy seeing someone come off with a bad injury but they lost somebody up front who has been performing really well.”

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus thought his side’s props were fresher because of his early second second-half substitution policy but Cole, and Mako Vunipola – who was hauled off after his own struggles against Frans Malherbe – have actually played fewer minutes at this tournament than the Bok starters.

Vunipola’s evaluation was that England’s scrum – and for that read England as a whole – were simply too passive.

“We probably sat back a little bit, but I can’t put my finger on why,” said Vunipola.

Why they fell so badly at the final hurdle is the question that will consume the England management tomorrow but finding the answers will not change the result. It was a moment in time, a golden opportunity. And it has gone.


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