England must chase consistency
England must chase consistencySHARE
Japan coach Eddie Jones says consistency is the major challenge facing England following their 38-21 win over the All Blacks at Twickenham last Saturday.
England ended the 2012 season on the ultimate high with an improbable record-breaking victory over the world champions.
Jones noted that England have been inconsistent in recent years and would now have to maintain the standard they set against New Zealand if they are to return to their glory days of 2003, when the Clive Woodward-coached side edged Jones’s Wallabies in the World Cup Final.
"England went into the game against New Zealand with no fear. No-one expected them to win and I know it sounds funny, but you can go out then and play rugby," Jones told The Guardian.
"They were also good tactically and the big test is how they deal with the expectation that will now be on them. Will they have the courage to play the same way?
"The only coach who has been able to get that out of them is Woodward and, since he went, it has been a case of peaks and troughs.
"Stuart Lancaster's job now is to make sure England continue to play without fear. The question going forward is over their mental ability."
Jones said the 2012 season ushered in a new cycle of Test players as several teams found themselves in a rebuilding phase following last year’s World Cup.
Tellingly, Jones said, amidst the international revolution, the power balance remained the same with New Zealand, South Africa and Australia still the three best sides in world rugby.
"A number of sides are building. South Africa have gone from a forward pack with 400-plus caps to 150, England the same. France and Wales have young players coming through. The race to 2015 is about who becomes the most stable," Jones said.
"We did not see a shift in power last month.
"South Africa did not play particularly well but they won their three Tests. They had a number of injuries and they did enough in each game, if no more. I think they are the most pragmatic side in the world: they do what they have to do to win.
"Australia had good results in England, Italy and Wales after losing to France and they have some really good young players coming through. They have a really attacking backline when everyone is fit, but it is a question of finding balance.
“There have been concerns expressed about the future of Australian rugby, but because of the sporting environment in the country, there will always be a good Wallabies team."
Jones predicted that next year’s three-Test series between the Wallabies and the British and Irish Lions would go down to the wire.
"It will be a great series against the Lions and I think it will be as close as it was in 2001 when the Lions were the best team in the first two hours of the Tests and the Wallabies were in charge in the final two hours. It came down to a final line-out and could do so again," Jones said.