“We have still got the ability to go on and win this tournament” – England following their Calcutta Cup loss

Eddie Jones took full blame for England's loss to Scotland on Saturday
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When Eddie Jones sat down for his video press conference, nearly 72 hours had passed since England’s loss at Twickenham.

Scotland came to the English capital and completely outclassed their hosts for 80 minutes. Just looking at the statistics, Gregor Townsend’s team were dominant across the park. They had the majority of possession, made far more meters, broke 27 tackles to England’s eight, and they won over double the number of rucks/mauls than the home side managed to achieve.

England’s players and coaches have since been raked over the hot coals that is social media. Their plan of attack, Eddie Jones's selections, and even their desire have been called into question. 

With Italy’s visit to Twickenham on the horizon, many are wondering whether Jones will refresh the matchday 23 against a team that hasn’t won a Six Nations fixture in 28 times of asking.

Even Jones’ captain, Owen Farrell, has come under fire following his below-par performance in the Calcutta Cup. There were plenty of questions surrounding Farrell and his Saracens teammates as four out of the five players representing their country last weekend had not played since the Autumn Nations Cup final.

But, whilst their clash with Italy could be deemed as a less ferocious prospect, Jones says selection will not change as a result of this.

“I think he (Owen Farrell) has been a highly consistent, highly successful player for us,” Jones said. “Like a number of players on Saturday, he wasn’t at his best, but I know there is a bandwagon, and he is an outstanding player and like any outstanding player, they can have a game. Is that a reason to drop a player? I wouldn’t think so.

“The selection process never changes. We are always looking to pick the best 23 for this game. We look at the condition of the players. We look at how we would like to play, how we think the opposition will play and select the best 23 so regardless of the result in the previous game, it really doesn’t affect that.”

For the players, you can imagine they have not been on social media too much following the loss. In terms of the England fans, they would have naturally been disappointed and were quick to voice their frustrations on various different platforms, but there is no real doubt that the players felt the defeat more than most. 

When Scotland last won at Twickenham, it was in the March of 1983. The home of English rugby is renowned for being a fortress, but after being unable to defend the most recent incursion, blindside flanker Mark Wilson says the players can only move on from this setback.

“The period after the game, and the day after, when you are reflecting on things, we are professional sportsmen at the end of the day, so we were disappointed with how we played,” Wilson said. 

“I think with the nature of this tournament and how quickly things move on, we’ve got to start thinking about Italy and the other four games and I think it only takes to look at last year’s tournament and how we started poorly in that first game and knowing we have still got the ability to go on and win the tournament. 

“We trained this afternoon and lads were very upbeat and very excited about ripping in and getting stuck into this week.”

In many ways, it feels as though we have been transported to 12 months ago when England suffered a defeat in their opening game of the Six Nations against France in Paris. Losing 24-17 on that day, Jones' side soon recovered to win the competition.

France have already set out their stall to win their first Six Nations in 11 years with their 50-10 triumph over Italy in Rome, whilst Wayne Pivac picked up his fourth victory as Wales’ main man with a somewhat unconvincing 21-16 win over a 14-man Ireland in Cardiff.

What England must now do is perform to the standards they set themselves against the Italians in order to prevent a slump like they experienced in 2018, when the team placed fifth in the competition. 

“Obviously it (the loss) hit hard because I think the realisation of most of the lads is that we were obviously disappointed with the way we performed and the fact that we didn’t show our best 80,” Wilson said. 

“I think that it is certainly something that is going to motivate us moving forward, to make sure that we take ownership of that and make sure that we don’t ever take anything for granted.”

On reflection, Beno Obano will look back on Saturday as bittersweet. Having first been part of an England camp ahead of the 2018 Six Nations before suffering a serious knee injury, he can now finally call himself a full international after replacing Ellis Genge in the 72nd minute against the Scots.

The Bath forward now has even more competition on his hands to gain another cap this weekend as loosehead prop Mako Vunipola has been added to the 28-man squad, as has tighthead Kyle Sinckler after completing his ban for swearing at officials.

It now means places for front three players will be at a premium with the added experience of the aforementioned players. What Vunipola and Sinckler bring is experience. Seasoned internationals, they will be able to raise the standards and put to bed the disappointment experienced last weekend. 

Having had time to review the loss, Obano says the side hopes to put in a much different performance against Italy.

“The main themes, in general, were sort of like; we didn’t play our game, we weren’t the team that we know we are capable of and it was sort of like, how do we then go and do that? It is sort of like; what do we go back and do well?” Obano said. 

“Obviously as a team, we have a good forward pack and a good backline and it is sort of like; let everybody do what they are capable of and that was what we were trying to do.”

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