The 3rd of October 2015 was one of the darkest days in English #Rugby history. A 33-13 loss to Australia saw the team eliminated from their own World Cup at the group stage after just 3 games. Predictably Stuart Lancaster was out of a job and Jones, only eight days into his new posting at the Stormers was snapped up for a compensation fee of £100,000.
That £100,000 is perhaps the most shrewd investment in the history of the RFU. Jones has, through evolution transformed a misfiring setup into one of the most feared teams on the planet. With a few changes, he has completely transformed our rugby fortunes. Here are some of the ways he and his coaching team have done it.
Against Wales in 2015 We had Owen Farrell before we'd really seen the drastic improvements to his running game, Sam Burgess a powerhouse who'd not made the transition to Union and Brad Barritt, a brilliant tackler but not much else. The combination was uninspiring, to say the least, and lacked proper distribution or open field running skills. It telegraphed the plan of trying to go through the opposition rather than anything else. Under Jones, the Ford-Farrell-Joseph midfield axis is the polar opposite. Two out and out playmakers with Farrell improving from functional and reliable to genuinely world class whilst being complimented perfectly with a second kicker and distributor in Ford and an exciting and clinical Jonathan Joseph outside. The combination gives guile, tactical nous, and a running threat. Henry Slade and Elliot Daly can add to continuity as like for like replacements whilst Manu Tuilagi offers an added X factor. All 3 of those will challenge but for now, it seems Jones has finally solved the midfield conundrum that Lancaster never did.
Whilst Jones's man management has doubtlessly lifted the whole team, one area has been particularly prominent. The back row, so ineffective against Australia at Twickenham was instrumental in inflicting a series whitewash on the same opposition in their own backyard. With the only personnel change being James Haskell in for Tom Wood it is surely Jones's management that has triggered this transformation. The Wasps man's own transformation has been staggering. His domineering displays down under made him the man of the series, he was simply a colossus. In tandem with Chris Robshaw, switched to his natural position of blindside and without the pressures of the captaincy he has been completely revived. The two workhorses are complimented perfectly by the human wrecking ball that is Billy Vunipola who has started to realize his awesome potential.
Will to improve
Not content with a grand slam, Jones was clear that the tour to Australia would be the real yardstick for the England team and his quest to turn the squad into the 'most dominant team in World Rugby'. Even after the impressive victory in the first test and an incredibly gutsy performance in the second it was clear that a whitewash was the only acceptable outcome for the men in white. Despite this achievement only this week he has demanded more consistency from his team and shows absolutely no sign of resting on his laurels. With the Autumn Internationals round the corner, England remains on an upward curve and look like a true force to be reckoned with. Jones' vision and ambition combined with brilliant coaching and management have secured that.