England's head coach admits a failing in his prep. Here's what else he's had his players doing before games this Six Nations
Eddie Jones admits he got Calcutta Cup preparation wrong
In the wake of their first Calcutta Cup loss in ten years, England boss Eddie Jones has held his hand up. In a magnanimous display, the Australian coach first lavished praise on Scotland before insisting that he had got the team’s preparations wrong.
Talking immediately after the 25-13 Six Nations loss, he said: “These lessons (from losses) you don’t want to have but they are the best lessons in the world. We will learn a lot from this. Unfortunately the lesson isn’t sometimes nice to take but it is a great lesson for us. We weren’t there in the first half and again I take responsibility for it, I didn’t prepare the team as well as I should have. It’s my fault.”
Related: Scotland win the Calcutta Cup
Of course Jones could be talking about how he addressed his players, what the make-up of match day was like or simply how much contact time he had with his squad. However, he then qualified what he meant.
“We changed the preparation for this game remarkably,” he said. “We got Georgia in as we wanted to improve our set piece work and that didn’t transfer to the game today. We are always changing our preparation.
“If we were able to get away with the game today we would still have things to work on. The loss hurts, with a win you get a good feeling. There is one happy team here – one dressing room singing songs and the other one is kicking stones. We are the ones kicking stones. Regardless of the result you look at things you haven’t done well and you prepare the team for the next game so it doesn’t change anything.”
England have employed a few varied approaches so far in these Six Nations, to keep the players guessing. As mentioned above, Georgia came in to train with England during the first fallow week.
The intention was for the forwards Jones called “the biggest, ugliest, strongest scrum pack in the world” to challenge and eventually galvanise his English scrum.
However, there have been other approaches. Before the Six Nations opener against Italy in Rome, Jones hoped to avoid any repeat of last year’s antics at Twickenham.
In 2017, Italy unleashed ‘The Fox’ Simply put, the Italians decided not to create rucks. This meant that there was no offside line, which allowed defenders to dart forward and block off scrum-half passes.
Related: What Six Nations sides did with their fallow week
So before the two teams met this season, Jones and his coaches utilised an American Cold War process known as “red-teaming” in their prep. This meant that the management would meet twice weekly to generate session plans that deliberately challenged the team’s most vulnerable points. The intention was to learn from this and, as a group, come up with ways to improve further.
Then, before the showdown with Wales, the England coaches looked at drills designed to replicate centre Scott Williams trying to rip ball out of an attacker’s hands.
This involved sessions where players paired off and wrestled for control of the ball. Jones said of the practice that he asked his squad to: “imagine it’s Williams – every time he sees the ball he tries to rip it out.”
Related: How Scotland celebrated their Calcutta Cup win
As Jones said after the Scotland defeat, he will go back and look at things. His prep was always going to change after this match, win or lose. He will forever change his preparation tactics.
As he said back in November: “In Japan (for the 2019 World Cup), we might have to change hotels two days before a game. We might have to fly to a hotel that has had karaoke in it for ten days and we’re going to have to adjust. It’s not a perfect world. Life at Pennyhill is perfect but that’s not going to win us the World Cup. We have to be adaptable and adjustable and robust.”