No one is buying Eddie Jones’s calculated dummies

You can only marvel at England head coach’s relentless chutzpah as he questions France

With the final weekend of the 2022 Six Nations looming and England struggling to avoid finishing in the bottom half of the table, you can only marvel at Eddie Jones’s relentless chutzpah. In the head coach’s view it is grand slam-chasing France who currently have most to ponder, with his side intent on exploiting the “chinks” in their hosts’ armour in Paris on Saturday.

Given England lost the try count 4-0 against Ireland last weekend and were beaten at home by a record margin under Jones, the truth is that far wider cracks are threatening to open up closer to home. As so often, though, Jones is much keener to discuss potential opposition frailties than to consider the implications of another heavy England defeat.

The problem is that almost no one is buying his calculated dummies nowadays. If the valour and spirit shown by a 14-man England in losing to Ireland at Twickenham was admirable, it is the outcome and shape of Saturday’s game that will ultimately determine whether or not Jones is merely whistling in the wind.

The 62-year-old has at least been around the block frequently enough to know that agreeing to serve a second World Cup cycle, having not won in 2019, was always an all-or-nothing assignment. “The longer you’re in the job, the more people probably don’t want you to be in the job,” he told BBC 5 Live. “I don’t think it helps being an Australian but that’s part of the deal. When I decided to do another cycle, I knew that would be more intense.”


Most England fans would counter that Jones’s nationality matters less than his continuing ability to assemble a team that makes its most striking statements on the field.

Having scored only two tries in three games against Scotland, Wales and Ireland, there are also those wondering if England’s idea of heading to Paris early this week to aid their acclimatisation for next year’s World Cup knock-out phase is a shade presumptuous.

Harder to pierce

While Jones remains adamant England played “exceptionally well” against Ireland for 60 minutes, he also knows that a French defence expertly organised by Shaun Edwards will be even harder to pierce. Having seen Wales bother Les Bleus both at the line-out and with their aerial game in Cardiff, however, he is hoping that England can do likewise.

“One thing I know is that there’s not a team in the world or in the history of the game that does not have chink in their armour,” said Jones. “Every team has a chink. It is your ability to find and expose that chink which is going to be the key on Saturday.”

“France are the longest kicking team in the world so that battle of the kicks is obviously important. They get their field position by kicking and we’ll need to take that strength away. The line-out battle against France is also an interesting one. Whether they bring in another jumper we’ll just have to wait and see but it will be a key contest in the game.”

With flanker Tom Curry ruled out with a torn hamstring, Jones has invited Wasps’ Jack Willis to train with the squad for the first time since the latter’s serious knee injury against Italy at Twickenham just over a year ago. “He had a tough old injury but he has recovered well and we’re looking forward to seeing where he’s up to in terms of his international career,” said Jones.

The head coach also indicated Courtney Lawes would probably stay at blindside flanker, which suggests Joe Launchbury is poised to replace Charlie Ewels in the second row alongside Maro Itoje, England’s player of the championship to date.

France, meanwhile, welcome back Damian Penaud and Romain Taofifenua after they missed the Wales match with Covid. Yoram Moefana is out with a knee injury and has been replaced by Tani Vili.

For the other match that could decide the destination of the Six Nations title this weekend, Ireland have lost Ryan Baird and James Ryan for their game against Scotland with Joe McCarthy and Ross Molony called up to their training squad. – Guardian