The RFU are in post-mortem mode after another dismal campaign in England – an autumn run that produced just one win, two shock home defeats and an overall sense of a national team on the decline, in spite of their considerable talent.
Head coach Eddie Jones is facing fierce outside criticism, but is expected to regain the support of his bosses, who are convinced that the Australian can turn England back into the World Cup contenders in time for next autumn’s tournament .
Since regime change is probably not on the agenda, Sports mail looks at what needs to happen to bring about a revival…
Head coach Eddie Jones faces fierce outside criticism after a dismal fall campaign
There is an overwhelming feeling that England is going backwards after a worrying autumn
Choose a first choice XV
It’s high time for Jones to pick a preferred lineup and let it gel.
Unless injuries intervene, stability is urgently needed to shape combinations.
Too many horse-for-course selections pay off. Rotation has left England all too often spinning in circles of confusion. France knows its best side and it shows. They have familiarity and cohesion. England needs some of that, and fast.
Upset in midfield
England’s attack is not functioning properly and the official line is that it will just take time. But a lack of clarity regarding game management is now a glaring concern.
More and more savvy judges are urging Jones to make a call between Marcus Smith or Owen Farrell at 10 (and don’t forget George Ford when he’s fit again) and reshape the center partnership.
Bring back Ollie Lawrence for another crack and maybe give him the ball this time.
Pick Manu Tuilagi at age 12 and make sure he’s more involved too. When Henry Slade positions himself off center, Jones has his two playmakers.
Jones must make a final call between Marcus Smith (left) or Owen Farrell (right) at 10am
Resolve the scrum battle
This is an area that may need a change of coach, as it just isn’t working for forward coach Matt Proudfoot.
England need to strengthen their set-piece platform and the scrum is a trickier solution.
It would be wrong to ignore proven veterans so the door should be open for Joe Marler to be reinstated and maybe even Dan Cole is worth another shot based on his cunning scrummaging for Leicester. He certainly won’t lack motivation…
England should try to reinstate Joe Marler (pictured) or Dan Cole to strengthen their scrum
Pray for laws
England needs Courtney back.
Others have tried to fill the lock-blindside void, but can’t quite match the veteran, popular Saint, who remains a vital asset.
Lawes has a positive presence in both the camp and the team.
Let him resume the captaincy when he is fit to return from a concussion, allowing Farrell to focus on his own game and set an aggressive tone – and leave the referee’s interactions to the laid-back Laws.
Courtney Lawes should resume captaincy when he is fit to return from a concussion
Respect the Six Nations
The only goal for England when they get back into camp early next year should be preparation to win the Six Nations.
After losing three games out of five for two consecutive years, it’s time to reaffirm their lost status as perennial title challengers.
France must come to Twickenham – which is never easy for them – and England must reestablish themselves as a European force or they can forget about the global crusade.
Millions watch the old championship on TV every year. It matters, still. It should be respected as a target in its own right.
Liberate the Foreign Legion
Frankly, the current situation should be “exceptional circumstances” for everyone, so the RFU should allow Jones to pick whoever they want, wherever they are.
Zach Mercer is the reigning player of the year in France’s Galactico-laden Top 14 competition, so if the Gloucester-bound number 8 is now deemed to add value, England should now be able to pick him.
And why not go all out and consider Christian Wade too – now that he’s back in rugby and tearing up defenses in the colors of Racing 92?
Jones should be able to pick Zach Mercer and not have to wait for Gloucester bound No 8
Choose a successor
It would be ideal if the RFU can speed up the process of deciding who will take over Jones, on the basis that if it’s Steve Borthwick, his meticulous attention to detail could be an asset in the short term.
And if they go after him, they should also try to recruit Kevin Sinfield.
Shaun Edwards has slipped through their fingers again so they could at least hire an inspiring English rugby league icon with real pedigree as a defensive coach, rather than an Australian with questionable credentials.
Re-engage the audience
England fans are losing faith – and interest. Measures must be taken to regain their support.
Rugby in this country cannot afford for the national team to generate apathy and pessimism. The public craves a burst of joyful exuberance in performances, so England must play with more freedom.
Make more training sessions accessible to spectators, allow players to showcase their characters and perhaps bring a World Cup warm-up game to the regions, to show England outside Twickenham for once.