Scott Wisemantel, England's new attack coach, having cast his eye over their Six Nations woes, is in no doubt as to the task that awaits him under Eddie Jones.
In Wisemantel’s words, to go from fifth in the Six Nations to a first series win in South Africa would be a “Cinderella story”. Rags to riches may be pushing it for the Rugby Football Union but certainly England’s back division is in need of some stardust.
Fortunately for England supporters, that challenge is precisely what attracted him to the job. Wisemantel is tasked with breathing new life into an attacking structure that has stagnated since last summer’s tour of Argentina. Jones’s stated aim is to increase England’s average of 2.7 tries against tier one opposition to three but, discounting Italy, they managed only seven in four matches during the Six Nations.
“The quality in general is very good but is it perfect? No it’s not. So we’re going to aim for perfection,” Wisemantel said. “The reality is, in an open-skill sport when you’ve got multiple decisions, you’re never going to get perfect. But their desire to get better is one of the qualities that has stood out. I have seen [England’s recent] games. I think it is like any team in the world that once you have success with something, teams defend it, nullify it and then you have to evolve and adapt. There’s a huge amount of potential – not only in the squad here but in some of the players injured. It’s pretty exciting for an England supporter.”
Wisemantel is well known to Jones, having started working with him for the Wallabies in 2004 and later with Japan. He comes with a reputation of standing up to Jones and will not be afraid to do so during the three-Test series against the Springboks. “It is not easy but that’s a real relationship, isn’t it? If I disagree, I disagree and then we have the debate and vice versa,” said Wisemantel. “And it is good. It is good for your growth, it is good for the team’s growth and it challenges everything to make it the best programme it can possibly be.
“It’s a strength of our relationship; it’s something I respect him immensely for. He will pick the eyes out of your programme and question why you’re doing things and vice versa. If I disagree with something that we’re trying to do I raise it and we move on. I’ve got to say, that’s one of Eddie’s great strengths. He can heave the debate, have the argument and then move on.”
As has been the case with Glen Ella, another Australian who has worked with Jones to finesse England's attack on their two previous summer tours, Wisemantel is on only a short-term secondment. He did not rule out extending his stay but revealed any negotiations would wait until the completion of the tour. "Our relationship is a lot of information-swapping, so wherever we have worked we have always stayed in touch. Anyone who has worked for Eddie will realise once you have worked for Eddie you are always working for Eddie."