England still haunted by 2015 World Cup horror show, says Eddie Jones
Head coach intends to bring in ‘expert’ to fix the team’s psychological problems
England coach Eddie Jones believes his side can win the World Cup. Photograph: Getty Images
Eddie Jones has claimed England are still mentally scarred by their 2015 World Cup horror show after their second-half capitulation against Scotland. Jones insists he can fix England’s psychological problems in time for this year’s World Cup and claims his side are capable of winning the tournament but he believes they are still haunted by their disastrous showing on home soil four years ago.
Against Scotland on Saturday, England threw away a 31-0 lead, conceding 38 unanswered points but with Jones taking the unusual step of hauling off his captain, Owen Farrell, George Ford’s last-gasp try salvaged a draw. It followed recent examples of England letting leads slip, to the grand slam champions Wales last month and against South Africa last summer.
Jones, however, believes having more access to his players in the buildup to the World Cup – the squad will convene in June and be together for three months before the tournament starts – will enable him to cure what he perceives as England’s inability to perform under pressure.
England also intend to enlist the help of an “expert” and Pippa Grange – the psychologist credited with helping the England soccer team to end their penalty shootout curse at the World Cup last year – could be in the frame given Jones’s close relationship with Gareth Southgate.
“It’s the way you think under pressure,” Jones said. “The team has probably had [the problem] since the 2015 World Cup, and we’ve been working on a process to fix it and we will get it right, but it takes time. Whenever you have a difficult tournament or difficult games, there’s always a lingering thought process there. It comes in when you get under pressure, a lot of pressure, and you can’t work out a way to get back to what you want to do. I’ve got one person that’s going to help us that’s a bit of an expert.”
England finished second in the Six Nations table but scored 24 tries from their five matches – 10 more than their nearest rivals – Ireland and Scotland.
“We can play with power and precision, we can score a number of different ways and apart from the second half [against Scotland] our defence has been quite imposing,” Jones said.
“Our set-piece and breakdown are pretty sound so that gives you a pretty good set of weapons to take into the World Cup. If we can get some consistency in the way we think on the field and that toughness and discipline about doing the right thing, we’ve got a team capable of winning the World Cup.”
Meanwhile, Jones has revealed he brought off Owen Farrell at a critical phase of Saturday’s remarkable draw due to England’s captain losing his “edge”.
Farrell was replaced by George Ford in the 71st minute with the match tied at 31-31 after the Scots had produced five unanswered tries to threaten the greatest comeback victory in Test history.
Lucky to escape
The Saracens outhalf had gifted two of those tries – to Stuart McInally and Finn Russell – and was also lucky to escape a card for a late shoulder-led tackle on Darcy Graham. Confessing his role in Scotland’s resurgence, Farrell admitted “we probably gifted them the momentum swing, me more than anyone” and it was Ford who crossed for the converted added-time try that spared England from humiliation.
“Owen lost a bit of his edge. He was just a little bit off his best and George Ford has been in exceptional form this week,” Jones told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme.
Scotland’s Stuart McInally accentuated the positives after Scotland were denied a famous victory.
“It’s a weird one. With a minute to go, you’re thinking ‘we’ve done this’,” he said. “I don’t know if regret is the right word. It’s disappointing to concede, right under the sticks as well.
“That was the game gone to the draw. It’s a strange one. There’s so many positives to take forward, putting one of the best teams in the world under heaps of pressure in their own back yard.”