‘I’ve got a plan for how England can win the World Cup’ - Eddie Jones following South Africa defeat

England have won five of their 12 games in 2022
©INPHO/Billy Stickland

After a disappointing loss to South Africa in England’s final game of the Autumn Nations Series, England head coach Eddie Jones has maintained that he has a plan to help England win the Rugby World Cup next year.

His comments came in the wake of England’s 27-13 defeat at the hands of the Springboks, the result meaning that England have finished a calendar year with a losing record since 2008 and the first time that South Africa have won at Twickenham since 2014.

On Sunday the RFU issued a statement that the RFU review panel will meet to dissect England’s disappointing November and ascertain what improvements can be made. To describe things as disappointing for England’s men’s national team is putting things mildly.

Starting off their Autumn Nations Series campaign with a flat performance against Argentina, which the South Americans nicked 30-29, before a dominant win over Japan, a draw with the All Blacks and then Saturday’s hapless performance, you have to believe that the fire beneath Jones has never been more stoked.

At the full-time whistle, England were booed by their fans while those wearing Bok gear cheered. Much like the Argentina game, Jones was quick to shoulder the blame for the performance in a move that shifts blame from the players after a dismal outing.

“We’ve always got a plan,” Jones said. “I’ve got a plan for how England can win the World Cup, but it doesn’t go in a perfect line. Sometimes you need these games to make you understand the areas which you need to be bolstered.”

Much like in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final, England were hammered at the scrum by South Africa. Jones even rolled the dice at the break, changing his entire front-row with the aim of changing his team’s fortunes against the current world champions.

From the off, South Africa had the advantage. At the first scrum, each of Kyle Sinckler and Mako Vunipola were blown up by referee Angus Gardner, South Africa taking the shot at goal through Faf de Klerk, although the scrum-half spurned the opportunity to take an early lead.

“They were able to impose it [dominance] at the scrum,” Jones said. I don’t think in other areas they were. If you take the scrum penalties out, I think they got four? Five and one free kick. There is one thing about rugby that has not changes – if you can’t win the scrum, you can’t win the game.

“All the other stuff is 100 per cent right that you are talking about, but if you can’t win the scrum, then it is a very difficult game. As they say in France: no melee, no life. That was today. We got squeezed at the scrum.

“Now, there is an adjudication issue that I am not going to go into at the scrum, and I don’t think that we are that far away from being a pretty able scrum.”

Later on Jones would be asked if there was more to the game than just the scrum, with the dropped balls, knock-ons and reversed penalty for Jonny Hill all contributing to England turning over possession of the ball on 12 occasions over the 80 minutes, inviting South Africa pressure and making it harder to get a foothold in the contest.

“Obviously you didn’t hear what I said,” Jones said. “When you get beaten at the scrum, the rest of the game becomes almost secondary. It’s hard to judge other parts of your game when you get beaten at the scrum like that.

“I’m going to give you a lesson here in rugby. Maybe you need to understand this. When you get beaten that badly at the scrum, everything looks bad. And it’s not necessarily bad.”

Before the World Cup kicks off in France next September, England have nine games left to play. Five of those will be in the Guinness Six Nations, the latter four essentially friendlies just to make sure that all the bodies are ticking.

This close to the tournament over the channel, it seems unlikely to think that the powers that be will release Jones from his contract. This time four years ago, England won six games and lost six in that calendar year and still made the final in Japan.

Should England do the same next year or better their finish to the tournament, then all the results in the build-up to a Webb Ellis will be forgotten and Jones’ taking of the blame becomes another chapter in a book about building champions.

So, after all the booing, all the discontent and ahead of another RFU review panel meeting, when asked whether England supporters should keep the faith, the answer from Jones is a predictable one.

“100 per cent,” he said. “100 per cent. And I am sure they’ll have doubts like you guys. I am standing in front of you and you’re telling me I don’t know how to coach, basically. Right? So, that’s alright, and I am sure some of the fans feel like that.

“But, you know, it’s a progression to the World Cup, we have our ups and downs, today we were badly beaten at the scrum, and therefore we threw the rest of the game, [it] becomes difficult to judge.

“You can make assertations about people dropping the ball, but once you’ve got that pressure, and you don’t know when – we couldn’t keep pressure on South Africa today, we were always under pressure in the game, and then funny things happen.”