RW looks at how the personalities of the two coaches – Stuart Lancaster and Eddie Jones – have been imprinted on their England teams

The personality of a coach is always expressed in the way his side plays. When a coach leaves his job under a cloud, as Stuart Lancaster did with England after a disastrous World Cup, the picture of his time in charge – and the nature of the personality that produced it – is typically distorted or revised by how it all ended.

What do stats tell us about Stuart Lancaster’s England, and the difference between them and the new Eddie Jones version? The 2014 Six Nations was the last time England played the same panel of matches as in 2016. The three games against Scotland, Italy and Ireland produced the following results:

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This table reveals a lot about both the comparative level of performance and team personality:

  • There is no difference in level of performance. The average number of tries scored/conceded (both +8 tries), and the average scoreline are remarkably similar to one another.
  • Lancaster’s England more expansive on attack. The number of clean breaks and offloads shows that Lancaster’s team were more ambitious in attack, offloading on average ten more times per game than Eddie Jones’s England and creating on average three more line breaks per match.
  • The turnover/discipline balance. Lancaster’s England gave up as many turnovers as they generated but only conceded an average of nine penalties per game. Eddie Jones’s side have an average plus-five giveaway/takeaway ratio, but have conceded an average of four more penalties per game (plus two yellow cards against Ireland).
 James Haskell

Crossing the line: James Haskell was yellow-carded against Ireland. Photo: Getty Images

What does this say about the personalities of the two coaches? Lancaster built a disciplined side with strong attacking aspirations, but one which lacked the ability to control the ball consistently and did not push the boundaries hard enough in the effort to get it back once it had been lost. Eddie Jones’s England are far more controlled and less expansive with ball in hand. They will tread the borders of legality to create turnovers but a lack of discipline hangs over the team like a dark spectre.

On the one hand Stuart Lancaster – honest and correct as the day is long and with a strong vision of what England could become, but unwilling to bend the law in critical areas and at critical times. On the other Eddie Jones – clever and confrontational and wanting control at all times, but sometimes losing his sense of boundaries, as much in his press conferences as in the team built in his image.

With the decisive match of the Six Nations, England versus Wales at Twickenham, hovering into view, Wales coach Warren Gatland has his own issues with the personality of his team. The dominant personality in Gatland’s coaching group has always appeared to be the outstanding defence coach Shaun Edwards. Under his watch Wales conceded only three tries in five World Cup matches. Wales are very like Edwards – tough to the point of cussedness, resourceful, blunt and brutal.

Wales tackle

Red wall: Uini Atonio is tackled by Gethin Jenkins during Wales’ win over France. Photo: Getty Images

However, for all their riotous success in the Six Nations since 2008, Gatland knows that Wales need to expand their game to challenge the southern hemisphere superpowers and improve their record of two wins in 30 matches against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. This means changing the personality of his team, adding some finesse and, to some degree, getting beyond Shaun Edwards. The England game will bring this transition into focus pretty sharply.

Will Wales’ attacking transplant come good in time for the Twickenham showdown? Will England’s aggression and intelligence be fatally undermined by their lawlessness and ill-discipline? Is Eddie Jones truly capable of exceeding the performance benchmark set by Stuart Lancaster? These are all questions for the future, whether near or far!

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