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Jones's 'super power' cannot hide fact England still have everything to prove

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Eddie Jones always talks about coaching the perfect game. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

Eddie Jones always talks about coaching the perfect game. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

Getty Images

Eddie Jones always talks about coaching the perfect game. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

Eddie Jones's 50th game in charge of England was a World Cup final defeat.

His 51st, in Paris this weekend, takes him back to zero: a new start trickier than his boisterous pre-match "messaging" suggests.

The Saracens scandal is not the only complication.

In Japan last autumn, we saw two diametrically opposed Englands: the one who posted arguably the country's finest single performance (the semi-final win over New Zealand) and the one who froze, fretted and fell to South Africa in the final.

In the stadium that night, you could sense the unravelling within 10 minutes.

A charitable way of viewing England's last-day blow-out is that beating Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in consecutive matches was pretty much impossible, and that Jones did all he could to lead the English horse to water, only for it to fall right in.

South Africa, it should be said, were tactically and physically awesome in the final. But there is no denying the awkwardness of what happened in Yokohama, or the uncertainty of where they and Jones stand now.

Can he extract consistent ruthlessness from a generation who executed against the All Blacks, but reverted to type when the Springboks jumped all over them?

Was the Rugby Football Union right to say all the way through in Japan that Jones would be welcome to stay on, whether or not England fulfilled his stated mission?

Finished

"This team is finished. A new team will be made," Jones said in Yokohama.

It sounded odd then and is no more convincing now. No coach would dismantle a side who had smashed and out-skilled the All Blacks a week earlier.

The warning had been there. Two days before the final, Lawrence Dallaglio said: "It won't be like the semi-final. If you're a musician, that was like the perfect set. It's very hard to do that again. Eddie Jones always talks about coaching the perfect game and he was pretty close to that against a quality opponent. South Africa won't make it like that."

This week, David 'Pemby' Pembroke, his communications mentor and ally, talked about the England coach's penchant for message-shaping.

"Eddie has got a super power in terms of his communication. Through language you create meaning," said Pembroke, citing England's claim in Japan that New Zealand had spied on their training.

"You can say, 'New Zealand are under pressure', but who is going to report that?" Pembroke asked.

After Japan, Jones entered a mea culpa phase, blaming himself for starting George Ford, rather than Owen Farrell, at No 10.

He said: "I accept full responsibility for the performance. It was my fault. I didn't prepare the team well enough and I know how to fix it."

The party line has swung back round.

"We showed in the World Cup that, when we have togetherness, we are a powerful team," Jones said. And on France: "It is going to test those young players because they will have never played against a brutal physicality and intensity that we are going to play with on Sunday."

Finally, and most amusingly: "We want to be remembered as the greatest team that ever played rugby."

Jones is highly unlikely to be around in 2023 to see that jokey claim tested. Besides, nobody wants to hear about the next World Cup.

Dominance is required on the lower slopes of a Six Nations Championship of extensive rebuilds.

England, who have used 73 players since Stuart Lancaster was fired, are the least in need of reconstruction, except psychologically.

There has been no "clear-out", but the team for Paris throws up plenty of talking points. Ben Youngs survives, the full-back, George Furbank, is a debutant, both Vunipola brothers are missing, Elliot Daly has been shifted to the wing and the pack has changed substantially against a backdrop of yet more churn in Jones's backroom staff, with a new attack coach Simon Amor and forwards coach Matt Proudfoot.

It is not a case of continuing from where they left off in Japan. Jones's England have everything to prove all over again, starting tomorrow in Saint-Denis. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

  • France v England, Live, tomorrow, VM One/BBC 1, 3.0

France - A Bouthier; T Thomas, V Vakatawa, G Fickou, D Penaud; R Ntamack, A Dupont; C Baille, J Marchand, M Haouas; B Le Roux, P Willemse; F Cros, C Ollivon (capt), G Alldritt. Reps: P Mauvaka, J Poirot, D Bamba, B Palu, C Woki, B Serin, M Jalibert, V Rattez.

England - G Furbank; J May, M Tuilagi, O Farrell (capt), E Daly; G Ford, B Youngs; J Marler, J George, K Sinckler, M Itoje, C Ewels, C Lawes, S Underhill, T Curry. Reps: L Cowan-Dickie, E Genge, W Stuart, G Kruis, L Ludlam, W Heinz, O Devoto, J Joseph.

Ref - N Owens (Wales)

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