'Old habits' die hard for England as pressure mounts ahead of crunch Twickenham clash
Eddie Jones has warned that England may not fix their "bad habits" until the 2019 Rugby World Cup due to the lack of time that he gets with the players, with their consecutive defeats against Scotland and France potentially a sign of things to come over the course of the next 18 months.
Saturday's surprise 22-16 loss to France saw Ireland claim the Six Nations title and end England's dominance in the competition under Jones.
But while the failure to achieve such a feat is not the end of the world given Jones' plan to build for the next World Cup in Japan next year, a third straight loss - against Ireland this weekend - would ring alarm bells for the Australian.
It would also represent the first time that England had lost three Six Nations matches in the same year since 2006 - a run of results that eventually led to the sacking of head coach Andy Robinson later that year.
A loss to the newly-crowned champions this weekend will almost certainly not cost Jones his job, given his success in winning 24 of 27 games in charge since the start of 2016, but he is aware of how their Six Nations rivals have learned to expose England's biggest weakness in competing at the breakdown.
Part of the problem is that the Premiership often sees rucks go uncontested, whereas both the Pro14 and Top 14 sees possession regularly challenged for after the tackle by more than one player.
Asked if their problems against Scotland and France came as a surprise, Jones answered: "No, not at all, because when you get under pressure, old habits come back. We've got to break old habits and that's one of the hardest things in life to do. Our players tend to sit back and not go with the ball-carrier, because of habits they have, and we're working hard to change that, but when we're under pressure it comes back, therefore we get a gap between the ball-carrier and the second man.
"I think we've always had that problem and these games have exposed it. Sometimes you need to get the lesson before you learn - and this will be a valuable lesson for us."
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Jones will be partially relieved to have these problems arise now and not in 18 months when Japan 2019 gets underway, but the short-term concern remains great - especially with the visit of Ireland to Twickenham Joe Schmidt's side have leapfrogged England into second place in the World Rugby rankings, and unless England can beat Ireland they will end the Six Nations in third and more than six ranking points behind the All Black.