English press reaction: Questions galore for under pressure Eddie Jones

Sunday papers full of praise for Ireland’s performance and Johnny Sexton in particular

England’s head coach Eddie Jones has come under fire after their fifth-place finish in the Six Nations. Photo: Niall Carson/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

England’s head coach Eddie Jones has come under fire after their fifth-place finish in the Six Nations. Photo: Niall Carson/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

 

It was the end of an unwanted run and perhaps the turning of the tide somewhat. After four consecutive losses to Eddie Jones’ men, Ireland came out with all guns blazing at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday and finished this year’s Six Nations campaign on a high with a 32-18 victory.

The defeat condemned England to a very unfamiliar fifth place finish with a triple crown of losses against Scotland, Wales and Ireland – the first time that has happened since 1976 – and it has left the English media and fans with questions for Eddie Jones.

Just two years ago all looked nice and rosy for English rugby after they saw off New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals. While defeat would follow against South Africa in the final, Jones went on to lead his side to the Six Nations title in 2020 – albeit stunted by Covid-19 – before also claiming the Autumn Nations’ Cup.

But, after the last seven weeks and three defeats the criticisms and questions are growing louder. In The Observer on Sunday morning, Michael Aylwin writes under the headline “Eddie Jones will face backlash over England’s bewildering decline”, that Saturday’s loss to Ireland was the nadir of a concerning 18 months for England’s stubborn coach.

“In many ways, this defeat was as concerning as that with which England opened their campaign. At least, all the usual excuses regarding an opening match in these disconcerting empty stadiums applied then,” he writes.

In the same newspaper, Paul Rees heaps praise on Johnny Sexton for “masterminding” Ireland’s win and writes that England are far from low on resources but rather it’s a case that “the reins need to be loosened and minds cleared. Blaming the media is never anything more than a diversionary tactic. Jones is better than that and now is the time for him to show it.”

In the Mail on Sunday the Jones criticism is even stronger. Columnist Clive Woodward, who guided England to World Cup glory in 2003, writes that Jones is the only person who should face questions for England’s dismal campaign and the head coach needs to “look in the mirror, not the window.”

Some of the Sunday papers question whether the Saracens core of the English team failed to fire after they faced a year in the wilderness of the Championship but Woodward believes the problems need to be addressed at a higher level.

“Somebody at the Rugby Football Union needs to ask some sharp questions of him. There is no respected rugby ‘brain’ asking the difficult questions,” he writes.

“What’s going on? Why have England produced only one decent performance? Why is the England team not reflective of the fantastic talent we see in the Premiership?

“There is so much England need to address and they need to start right now.”

In the same paper, Nick Simon’s match report is, again, critical of England and points to Sexton as the key to Ireland’s win. After Jones compared the noise around the England set up to rat poison earlier in the week, Simon writes that Sexton “proved to be the head of pest control. The 35-year-old has been labelled a fading force in international rugby, but here he kicked 22 points, as England ended the campaign with their biggest overall points concession in Six Nations history.”

In the Sunday Telegraph, Tom Cary and Daniel Schofield are not short of praise for the Ireland players in their player ratings with Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne and Robbie Henshaw the three men in green to receive 9/10 while there are plenty of fours and fives in the England ranks while Mako Vunipola is handed a three after another day of ill-discipline.

The praise for Beirne is elsewhere in the newspaper as well as Charlie Brown writes that the Munster man has put himself front and centre for a Lions call-up while a number of England players have fluffed their lines.

“Beirne is a phenomenal defender, intelligently disruptive whether the ball is on the floor or above the ground,” he writes.

“Whatever the Lions’ schedule, Warren Gatland will need versatility and Beirne has influenced matches over the past two months at both lock and blindside flanker.”

Over at the BBC columnist Matt Dawson is excited by the “sensational” matches we have seen in this year’s Six Nations but it’s fair to say he doesn’t include England in that, writing that the responsibility to improve on performances lies with both the players and management.

In the Mirror Alex Spink writes that England were simply blown away by a far superior Ireland side.

“England couldn’t live with Ireland’s accuracy, the variety of their attack, the dominance of their collisions, their sheer understanding of what they wanted to do,” he writes.

With the campaign now over, Jones will get some respite from the questioning but this does seem like it could be a critical point in the Australian’s tenure.

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