Ollie Phillips: England head coach Eddie Jones must rediscover the courage of his convictions

Ollie Phillips
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England have lost just two of 26 Tests under the stewardship of Eddie Jones (Source: Getty)

It is certainly not panic stations or all doom and gloom for England. They are the second best side in the world and can still feasibly win the Six Nations despite their setback against Scotland, but there are concerns.

When Eddie Jones was hired, he inherited a squad that he could do no wrong with. England had just been dumped out of their home World Cup in the group stages and were being ridiculed.

At that stage, he could have picked a load of kindergarten kids and people would have applauded him for being courageous, irrespective of whether they won or lost.

Jones galvanised what, for me, was a young and hungry group of individuals that had a point to prove and, in the main, he has enjoyed great success by picking form players performing week in, week out in the Premiership – that was his mantra from day one.

Such a stance created a nervous energy within the squad and the players required an enormous drive and determination to ensure they held onto their shirt; nothing was taken for granted.

But Jones has deviated from his philosophy of picking form players. If he was staying true to that principle then the likes of Don Armand, Dan Robson, Henry Slade, Zach Mercer and possibly Danny Cipriani would be getting game-time, but they don’t get a sniff.

Compare Jones’s previous stated position with the teams he has selected so far in the Six Nations, which have seen Nathan Hughes, Sam Underhill, Maro Itoje and Ben Te’o all return from injury and don an England jersey almost instantly.

Similarly, I doubt there is a single person in world rugby at the moment who would pick Dylan Hartley at hooker for England given he is that out of form, yet he starts and is the captain.

Fly-half George Ford struggled for Leicester pre-tournament and the Tigers are arguably performing better without him, while I’m unsure what message the selection of Richard Wigglesworth of Saracens sends out.

In actual fact, what it says to current first-choice scrum-half Danny Care is that he is guaranteed to start every single match and there is no real competition for his place.

Wasps No9 Robson, for instance, is a real livewire, he can make things happen, he’s dangerous and a threat and would pose questions and challenge Care, who at the moment isn’t feeling that heat.

Like in everyday life, when you start a new job you want to assert your personality, put your own stamp on things and build from there, and that is exactly what Jones did when he was first appointed.

The Australian is facing different challenges and pressures now. England have lost just two of 26 Tests under him and are bidding to overtake world champions New Zealand and become the best team in the world. Standards have been set.

But I believe Jones has reverted to what he knows and trusts rather than being brave. While there is a time and a place for that, I would love to see him rediscover the courage of his convictions.

Essentially, if your philosophy for becoming the greatest team on the planet and winning a World Cup is based upon selecting the best players at that particular moment then I think you have to live, and indeed die, by that.

Ollie Phillips is a former England Sevens captain and now a director at PwC, focusing on organisational, cultural and technological change.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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