Eddie Jones must receive his risky selection calls against Ireland during the confrontation between Six Nations
After landing a messy kiss on the face of his dog, Annie, Eddie Jones jumped in a luxury Mercedes from Pennyhill Park to Twickenham.
He might as well have walked on a cord.
Defeat Ireland and the harmony will be restored for another week. Lose and the “Jones Out” stories will make pace. That is the tree or bust atmosphere that surrounds the fleeting coach.
Eddie Jones has made a number of questionable selection calls for England against Ireland
Jones has done nothing this week to reduce the volume.
In a typical set-up week for an international competition, Jones speaks publicly only once, on the day of the team announcement. This time, prior to this crucial Six Nations clash, Jones spoke five times. He has hardly given an atmosphere of serenity.
He spent most of his week putting down reasonable questions with short, negative answers.
Then he lost his run when, unexpectedly, he was asked about Caroline Flack’s death – and a moment later he was accused of racism making headlines.
In his last briefing of the week, he spoke up the heat around the camp. “You were sharp, the players were sharp … you can tell by your body language,” he commented.
Maybe that’s exactly how Jones wants it.
He said his players were “uncomfortably excited” to return to Twickenham, so maybe he did his utmost to create that so-called lead.
“If you use the roller coaster analogy, you’re on top of a hill, you’re excited, but you’re also scared, a little uncomfortable, you’re not entirely sure,” Jones said.
On paper, England is the most established team in the competition. They are the only team that has not appointed a coach or leader after the World Cup last fall in Japan. Sunday’s opponents, Ireland, both have Andy Farrell and Johnny Sexton.
Captain Johnny Sexton (L) and coach Andy Farrell (R) were both named after the World Cup
But the reality feels anything but fixed. Maybe it’s all part of Eddie’s master plan. Jones the Evil Genius? Or Jones the Busted Flush?
The result will largely answer this question.
But many supporters in England have already made a decision. When the team was announced on the social media channels of England for Sunday’s game, the answers were largely critical of Jones’s selections. Three players – Courtney Lawes, Jonathan Joseph and Tom Curry – were selected from position. Or that number can be five if you include Manu Tuilagi and Owen Farrell.
Jones remains dependent on the 33-year-old scrum half Willi Heinz
“Is this selection a help cry?” A Twitter user asked. “The plot completely lost,” said another. “Bring Danny Care back,” someone suggested, although they also claimed to be from Narnia.
Many of Jones critics seem to have already forgotten his performance with England in Japan last year. But a new defeat at Twickenham will ask the Australian a number of difficult questions.
Why does he choose a 33-year-old scrum half? Why does he give a first start on the wing to a center of 50 cap? Why, in the forced absence of Billy Vunipola, is he so reluctant to bleed a new # 8?
In the absence of Billy Vunipola, Tom Curry has so far filled in number 8 with mixed results
The immunity offered by reaching the World Cup Final only lasts so long for Jones.
During the first four years that Jones was in charge of England, there was a clear vision of the 2019 World Cup. It was almost done to perfection, but he was just short of the final defeat by South Africa in Yokohama.
Jones’s contract with the RFU will expire next year, so there is a lack of clarity about where the team is going. The jury investigates whether the coach’s methods will be more successful in 2023, but Jones remains challenging that he builds a solid core in his team.
“I think it’s something that is developing well with this team,” he said. “I think it’s a slow leadership. I look at the All Blacks and it took them eight years to find their leadership balance. We are now in our fifth year. It takes time.’
The problem is that neither Jones nor his players know if he will be here for eight years. South African Rassie Erasmus is connected to the position; the RFU has the responsibility to provide clarity to both coach and players.
If England loses, Jones’s Six Nations campaign is considered a failure and contract negotiations are put on hold. Taxi for Eddie?
But on the other side of the string, a win will challenge England for the title – and Jones will smile all the way back to Pennyhill Park.