England welcome the United States to Twickenham on Sunday afternoon on U.S. Independence Day, but it is on Eddie Jones’ side for whom new starts are looming. Hopefully a sense of freedom too because, although this is a very different side of the staff, the turgid performances of the Six Nations persist and England could reinvigorate themselves.
There’s no danger of defeat: The United States hasn’t played since the 2019 World Cup, has a plethora of raw and inexperienced players, and is without instrumental opener AJ MacGinty. The same can be said of the game against Canada next Saturday, so performance rather than points is what matters most.
It remains to be seen how much of that staunch English side – there are eight newbies in the starting XV, including captain, Lewis Ludlow, and opening half, Marcus Smith, and four more on the bench – for Jones after this. summer he’s determined to give them the chance to force his hand. He repeatedly cites the 2017 tour against Argentina when Tom Curry and Sam Underhill made their debut, but perhaps less than the staff, it’s England’s overall approach that needs a redesign.
Jones likes to try to be at the forefront of international trends. On occasion it might sound like an apology, planning for the future rather than focusing on the present, but he’s used to doing it right at World Cups and he thinks the emphasis is now more focused on speed.
“World Rugby, and I’m part of the working committee for that, is really pushing that we want a better game and to get that we need a more consistent ruck speed,” he said. last month.
As a result, he named Smith alongside Harry Randall at the half-fback. Seven months ago, George Ford described the ball as a time bomb that England would repel too often, but the hope is that on Sunday they explode in attack.
Likewise, Jones admitted that the English peloton had underperformed in the Six Nations and wanted them to be “feared around the world”. While he’s hardly reinventing the wheel to look for a bunch of menacing electric attackers and full-backs, it feels like Jones is turning the page at the start of the next chapter in the four-year cycle.
Jones certainly looks refreshed after the disastrous Six Nations campaign and rejuvenated by the opportunity to work with so many new faces. His insistence that his work as a consultant in Japan was done because he felt the need to ‘practice coaching’ didn’t fully convince him, but he’s obviously in his element with so many rookies. “The less they have played at this level, the more they tend to listen,” he said recently. “For these guys we have to guide and lead a little more.”
This camp’s injury rate is alarming – Chunya Munga is the latest to drop – but it’s clear Jones and his coaches are determined to make the most of these two matches that were originally scheduled to take place in the United States, only to Covid -19 regulations to force a change.
“It’s reasonably tight, but we had hot dogs and a Budweiser beer night,” Jones said. “It’s the closest to the United States we’re going to get. The restrictions are still there and we have tried to encourage players to have as much fun as possible.
“I have to keep a completely open mind on how many of these players will pass. If we can have four or five that can become the best in their positions, that will be a fantastic position for us. It’s not a temporary team, it’s England facing the United States. Everyone who wears the shirt is lucky enough to own this shirt.