Eddie Jones finds a back-row trio who are singing from the same song sheet

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This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Six Nations 2019 Wales v England: remembering six of their best meetings down the years Share on Twitter Since you’re here… Support The Guardian England rugby union team The Breakdown: sign up and get our weekly rugby union email. Jones is a relentless coach and asks a lot of his players, too much for some. But Wilson, Hatley says, is “the sort of bloke you want to work with, and players want to play with him, because of the way he approaches every single day”. Hatley says there was a moment in England’s game against Ireland when “they come in together in a group and he wandered in and just said: ‘How good is this?’” Curry, a 20-year-old kid, is mustard keen too. Like Haskell and Robshaw before them they are hungry for it. It feels as if Jones has found a couple of players who work as hard as he does. Facebook Read more Share on LinkedIn England’s Eddie Jones seeking display of ‘real steel’ against Wales Billy Vunipola (left) and Tom Curry after securing victory in Ireland. Photograph: David Rogers – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images Pinterest England were beaten 25-13 by a Scottish team who dominated the breakdown, where they won 13 turnovers. Jones’s England now had exactly the same sort of problems that Lancaster’s had been suffering with in 2015. Jones needed another solution. There was Brad Shields, fresh over from New Zealand, and then the group of four rookie players he had taken on tour to Argentina in 2017: Sam Underhill, Don Armand, Wilson and Curry. Armand did not make the cut. But between the other four Jones had options.Curry and Underhill were always seen as coming men. It is the 29-year-old Wilson who has been the real revelation. England’s scrum coach, Neil Hatley, describes him as a “glue player”, someone who sticks the team together. “He has developed massively since his debut in Argentina,” says Hatley, “I think he’s become a more genuine threat as a ball-carrier. “Defensively, he’s always been very good and he puts his head over the ball. He’s a poach threat too.” But you sense it’s not just the skill-set Wilson has that appeals to Jones but his attitude and work ethic. That is true for Curry too. In the beginning Eddie Jones made it look easy. He had an idea what was wrong with England’s back row, had even explained the problem in a column for the Daily Mail while Stuart Lancaster was still in charge, and he knew a quick fix for it too. When Jones took over as head coach he moved Chris Robshaw over to the blindside flank, picked James Haskell to play on the openside and brought back Billy Vunipola, who had been injured, at No 8. Jones knew he needed to bring a young back-row through too, because Robshaw and Haskell were both getting on, so he picked Jack Clifford. Simple. Eddie Jones Share on Messenger Reuse this content Twitter Topics Share on Facebook It worked. Haskell responded well to the stick Jones gave him, Vunipola to the support he offered and Robshaw just stuck his head down and got on with proving everyone wrong. They started together in seven of England’s next eight Tests. Clifford was on the bench for six of those games too. And England won every one of them. Their run together stretched through the grand slam in 2016 and the first two games of the summer tour to Australia, when Haskell injured his ankle. Three years later that trio has still started more Tests under Jones than any other back-row combo he has used.The trouble is the three of them have not played together since and they are not all that likely to again, either. And it is only now that Vunipola is playing with Tom Curry and Mark Wilson that it feels as if Jones has found a back-row unit he is happy with. In between he has picked 15 players in 21 different back-row combinations in 28 Tests. Some of that inconsistency was caused by injuries, some by the ebbs and flows of form, but it is true, too, that a lot of it was because Jones was casting around for players who could do everything he was asking them to. After Haskell got injured it all got pretty complicated. Clifford suffered a bad shoulder injury early in 2017, another later that summer, and has not made the team since. The other players Jones had around were Teimana Harrison and Matt Kvesic, who played one game, the one-off summer Test against Wales in 2016, and was never picked again. Harrison came in for Haskell in that third Test against Australia and lasted all of half an hour before Jones took him off again. He got another run in that autumn and that was it.Whatever Jones was looking for, he had not found it yet. By spring 2017 Jones was starting to look a bit desperate. He was playing Maro Itoje at No 6, and had recalled Tom Wood at No 7. A year later he went full circle and put Robshaw back on the openside, with Courtney Lawes playing blindside. With Vunipola and Nathan Hughes injured, Sam Simmonds had come in as the new No 8. Lawes, Robshaw, Simmonds started three Tests together in that year’s Six Nations, which is where things started to go really wrong. Share via Email Rugby union Share on WhatsApp Share on Pinterest features Read more Six Nationslast_img

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