How Liverpool are helping Eddie Jones and England
SPOTLIGHT: Eddie Jones is a well-known cricket fan but the England rugby coach has been looking to Premier League football champions Liverpool in a quest to improve his Six Nations kings.
England made it two pool victories out of two in the Nations Cup with an 18-7 success against Ireland on Saturday.
That win saw Jonny May grab two tries, with the England wing’s second, a stunning length of the field score, up there with the very best witnessed at Twickenham.
But that remarkable effort started when a stray Ireland line-out throw was collected by lock Maro Itoje before the ball found its way to dashing wing May.
Going from defence to attack – or transitioning – is a skill Jones is trying to hone with England after studying the methods of Liverpool.
Jones has even met with Liverpool analyst Ian Graham in a bid to add some Anfield nous into his Red Rose set-up.
“Transitional parts are so important,” said Jones, currently reading ‘Believe Us’, a book about Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s time on Merseyside.
“It’s a pretty exciting area for us and it’s pleasing to see that try where we shifted the ball quickly to the outside and then it was a leg race. There are not too many people in the world who can beat Jonny in a leg race.
“Liverpool, and I think most football sides, are very advanced in being able to measure the movement of the players off the ball.
“So we’re starting to get some measurements. We’re in nursery school now whereas Liverpool are doing their PhD at Oxford.”
May has now scored 31 tries in 59 Tests for England, leaving him joint-second on their all-time list of try-scorers alongside Ben Cohen and Will Greenwood.
But former England wing Rory Underwood, a mainstay from the mid-1980s to the mid 1990s, remains out in front with 49 tries in 85 Tests.
But with May, like Underwood, scoring at a rate of a try every two England appearances, Jones believes the 30-year-old ought to surpass his wing predecessor’s all-time England record.
“I don’t see why he can’t reach that total,” said Jones, whose side will complete their Nations Cup Pool B programme away to Wales in Llanelli.
“He’s only going to get better and better. I think he’s going to be at his best when he’s about 32, 33.
“He’s 30 now so there’s no reason why he can’t keep scoring tries and being one of our most important players.”
The veteran Australian coach, formerly in charge of his native Wallabies and Japan, has seen plenty of wings but believes May is a special talent.
“He’s an incredible rugby player. What I’ve seen in that boy in the time I’ve been lucky enough to coach him has been outstanding,” said Jones, who recently celebrated his fifth anniversary in charge of England.
“I’ve never seen a more professional player. He continues to get better, he gets faster, stronger, more elusive and his work off the ball is exceptional. He’s always looking for ways to get quicker.”