The mistake that haunts England coach
REACTION: England coach Eddie Jones is being ‘haunted’ every day by one big mistake he made before the World Cup Final.
The high profile Jones said he should have reinvigorated his team for the clash against South Africa in Tokyo, after the stunning semifinal win over the All Blacks.
The Springboks won 32-12 to win a record-equalling third Webb Ellis Cup and became the first team to lose a pool match and go on to the title.
Jones is overseeing the Barbarians this week for the invitational side’s match against Fiji at Twickenham on Saturday – with nine South Africans, including three World Cup Final Boks, in the BaaBaas squad.
“I haven’t watched it and I probably won’t watch it,” Jones told the Telegraph, a British daily broadsheet newspaper published in London.
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“It’s replayed every day. Every time I wake up the World Cup is there in front of me.
“But I know in my head where we could have probably made improvements.
“One of the areas was that I probably made a mistake in terms of selection. That’s all with the benefit of hindsight, but I should probably have refreshed the team for the final.”
On the back of a 19-7 victory over the All Blacks, Jones kept the same starting team for England with just a single change on the bench, where scrum-half Ben Spencer replaced the injured Willi Heinz.
Conversely, between the quarterfinal against Australia and the semi-final against New Zealand, Jones had mixed up his midfield partnership.
Captain Owen Farrell impressed from flyhalf against the Wallabies with Manu Tuilagi at inside centre and Henry Slade wearing 13. George Ford, outstanding in the pool stages, came off the bench in the quarter-final before returning to the starting side to face the All Blacks. Slade was among the replacements as Tuilagi formed a centre partnership with Farrell. Jones then kept that same arrangement for the final.
“Apart from that, it was one of those days,” the England coach said of the Final.
“Sometimes they start the game brilliantly and things come off for them.
“We start the game a little bit off, lacking a tiny bit of energy because we’d played four big games in a row. That’s the reality of it – we just came unstuck.”
Jones is staying on for at least two more years – that’s when his current contract concludes – and says he will immediately make selections with the development of the next World Cup team in mind.
The tournament review will be concluded this week, and former All Black coach John Mitchell is expected to stay on as an assistant.
Jones, a former Springboks assistant coach, said there was one silver lining to England’s World Cup final disaster.
“I’m so pleased for those South African players,” he said.
“You can see what a galvanising effect it’s had on the country. That dampens the hardship a bit.”
Ironically, three world champions are in Jones’ Barbarians squad this weekend – Tendai Mtawarira, Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi.
Am and Mapimpi combined brilliantly for South Africa’s first try in the World Cup Final, while Mtawarira dismantled England’s scrum with a destructive performance from loosehead prop.
“I’m trying to get hold of Beast,” Jones joked.
“He was instrumental in the Springboks’ World Cup win.
“But I’m so pleased for those South African players. You can see what a galvanising effect it’s had on the country. That dampens the hardship a bit.”
Reiterating his aim to see out his current contract with the Rugby Football Union, which runs until 2021, Jones said “nobody knows” whether he will be at the helm for the 2023 World Cup campaign.
An official review of the 2019 tournament will finish Thursday or Friday. At that point, Jones will establish a new-look backroom team. Defence coach John Mitchell, also with the Barbarians this week, is expected to remain as one of Jones’s chief lieutenants but scrum coach Neal Hatley has joined Bath.
Attack coach Scott Wisemantel has been linked with a role in Australia’s set-up, while reports have suggested that forwards coach Steve Borthwick is weighing up a move to Leicester.
“We’ve got a Six Nations coming up pretty shortly,” Jones said. “I’ve already been out looking for players, so we’re into the next cycle.
“Like anything, you’ve got to refresh the squad. I’ll definitely coach England for the next two years and part of my job is then to set up the side for the 2023 World Cup, so selection will be geared towards the 2023 World Cup straight away.”
But first, there is Saturday, when his Barbarians will also include former France international Mathieu Bastareaud and ex-Ireland captain Rory Best.
“It’s a historical part of rugby, a very important part of rugby,” Jones said. “I was lucky enough to play for the Barbarians myself. I was just thinking about it the other day.
“When I played for the Barbarians there was a young guy called John Eales – an 18-year-old, skinny lock – on the tour. He went on to have a famous career.
“I just love coaching,” he added. “To have the opportunity to coach the Barbarians, one of the most historic teams in the world, is a great honour.”
Source: The Telegraph