SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Jones still has plenty of work to do with England

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Eddie Jones still has plenty of work to do despite England’s much improved display against Italy… there was much more urgency and tempo but the team’s control and precision is lacking

  • England showed far more urgency and tempo than they did against Scotland
  • Win over Italy gets them back on track but they can’t get too carried away
  • Wales will be a step up and coming off superb win Edinburgh will be pumped up
  • Six Nations isn’t over for England and win in Cardiff will put them back in charge 

A good stepping stone for England and definitely a much better performance than against Scotland last week against a decent Italian team, but now is not the time to get too carried away.

That was the man of the match Kyle Sinckler’s post-match reaction and I can only agree with him. The England prop clearly has a future as a pundit and maybe even a coach.

Skipper Owen Farrell was also very realistic afterwards and that is encouraging to see. England made a very visible attempt to fix the faults from last week and there was much more urgency and tempo about their play. They need to be applauded for that after a week of intense media scrutiny.

England were much improved against Italy with more urgency and tempo about their play

Kyle Sinckler insisted England cannot get carried away with the win and I agree with him

The control and precision was sometimes lacking and they probably needed to be more patient on some occasions, but it was a big step forward.

Now Wales, pumped up and roaring defiance after their wonderful win in Edinburgh last night, lie in wait in Cardiff in two weeks’ time in what, regardless of an empty stadium, should be a snarling contest and test England more than yesterday — although I will happily admit that Italy showed much more than I anticipated.

The scoreline was probably a little harsh on them, their attacking play is improving noticeably and I enjoyed the ambition of their backs, although England were unquestionably comprehensive winners. It was just a matter of when they applied the killer blows.

What England will encounter though in Wales is a better kicking game. Italy kicked too much ball away to a lively England back three and they didn’t back up that tactic with a strong kick-chase. Wales will not be so accommodating.

England can get themselves back in the ascendancy in the Six Nations by beating Wales 

There is plenty to work on ahead of that trip over the Severn, not least some of the passing in the outside backs which lacked crispness, but England are back on track.

Their Six Nations is by no means over. If they can win in Cardiff they will be back in the ascendancy with a huge home game against France to come.

There are possibly still question marks against Elliot Daly in defence and Billy Vunipola’s speed around the park but I don’t think Eddie will be making any more changes next up, the die is cast in that respect. He made the tweaks he wanted to make yesterday.

And in fairness to Daly he showed up much more in attack while Billy and the other forwards showed good hands moving the ball away from the set piece and breakdown. England always look better when that part of their game is functioning. They will need more of the same against the Welsh.

Jonny May’s try was extraordinary and showed the X-factor ability that England have out wide

What was really good though was to see Anthony Watson so involved in an attacking sense and Jonny May doing what he does best with that extraordinary try.

England have these X-factor performers out wide and they must bring them into play as often as possible. It’s the old question: who do the opposition least want running at them in a little space? They are the players who must be fed the ball constantly.

Another bonus was seeing Dan Robson making such an impact when he came on at a time when England had gone a little quiet in the second half and needed shaking up a little.

Dan Robson made a real impact when he came on and showed what he can bring to the side

Robson’s opportunities have been few and far between — little 10-minute cameos — and he struggled to pick up the pace of the game against Scotland. But the Wasps man got a bit longer yesterday and was really buzzing around, making himself a nuisance. It was a timely reminder of what he can bring to the table.

It was a good game to watch and it got quite feisty without spilling over, but it was very distressing to see what looked like a very serious knee injury to Jack Willis soon after he came on and indeed soon after he had nicked a try after Robson’s lightning break.

We’ve all seen those kinds of injuries when your studs get caught in the turf and you either fall or get rolled over with some force in a position you don’t want to go.

Willis puts himself in the firing line at the breakdowns week after week. His suppleness allows him to fold into those jackal positions before the opposition but he does become a target for those who want to move him with illegal neck rolls or the legal turtle roll of the torso, which was the case here.

The breakdown area is very chaotic and it’s amazing there aren’t even more injuries there

Willis and other specialist jackals are in such an exposed position —heads, necks and knees are vulnerable and then there are those random situations when your studs get caught or your ankle is struck. It’s amazing there aren’t even more injuries of this nature.

I’m not quite sure what you do, because rugby relies on some kind of contest for the ball but it is quite a debating point whether those turtle rolls should also be banned

The breakdown area is very chaotic, everything happens at 100mph and to these eyes many players are still off their feet when they fly in. It looks a bit ‘wild west’ and down on the touchline yesterday, with no crowd noise to mask the impacts, we winced at the physicality and alas with Willis it was clear instantly. Let’s against hope the damage is not as bad as it looks.

Jack Willis’ injury looked serious but let’s hope the damage is not as bad as first seems

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