Sunday 26 January 2020 4:40 pm

Eddie Jones hoping coaching staff overhaul can inspire England to Six Nations victory

When England take to the Stade de France for their opening Six Nations fixture next weekend, all eyes will be on the players.

How will the Saracens stars fare away from their turbulent club? Will the uncapped players hit the ground running? Has Eddie Jones made enough changes from the squad that lost the World Cup final?

While all those questions are valid, the most significant changes have been behind the scenes.

Jones’s coaching staff has undergone a huge overhaul during the winter, with only defence coach John Mitchell remaining in the same post.

If you can’t beat them, hire their forwards coach

Matt Proudfoot has joined as forwards coach following a successful stint with Rugby World Cup winners South Africa, where he coached the pack that so brutally got the better of England in November’s final.

While not always the most aesthetic of performances, it was Proudfoot who presided over the scrum which caused England and Jones so many problems as they went on to win the final by a record 20-point margin.

It highlighted the importance at the highest level of the game of the forwards in securing the ball and building from the front. So who better than the man who identified England’s weaknesses to now fix them?

New Zealand v South Africa - The Rugby Championship
Matt Proudfoot was the South Africa forwards coach from 2016 until last year’s World Cup final win in which his pack got the best of England’s (via Getty Images)

Proudfoot was born and raised in South Africa but spent much of his playing career in Scotland, representing the country four times after qualifying through his grandad, who was from Dumfries.

He spent three and a half years with the Springboks, working under both Allister Coetzee and Rassie Erasmus, having helped Erasmus develop tight-heads Frans Malherbe and Vincent Koch, loose-head Steven Kitshoff and hooker Mbongi Mbanambi during their previous spell at Stormers.

It will be hoped he can have a similarly positive impact on Kyle Sinckler, Ellis Genge and others in the front row.

The 47-year-old takes over from Steve Borthwick, who is staying with England but switching to skills coach until the summer, when he will join Leicester Tigers in his first head coach role.

It will signal the end of an eight-year partnership with Jones, having followed the Australian to England from Japan.

Melbourne Storm assistant coach Jason Ryles, who has a background in rugby league and has assisted with the England set-up intermittently during Jones’s tenure, will come in as Borthwick’s replacement in November.

Under the new-look approach, Proudfoot will also be responsible for the scrum, following the departure of Neal Hatley to Bath after the World Cup.

A new approach

While both of those departures had been expected, England suffered another blow late last year when it emerged that attack coach Scott Wisemantel was to leave with immediate effect and return to his native Australia to join the national side under Dave Rennie.

Jones has called on England Sevens coach Simon Amor to fill that void and add some dynamism to his team’s attack.

For all their impressive displays, a criticism of this England side has been that they seem unable to react when the game is not going to plan.

2014 Wellington Sevens
Jones is hoping Simon Amor, former England Sevens coach, can reshape his attack (via Getty Images)

It is hoped that Amor, who led the Team GB Sevens team to silver at the Rio 2016 Olympics, can help to unravel some of those issues and encourage more adventurous play from players who are products of the Premiership, where structured play tends to reign supreme.

This refresh of the coaching staff should bring with it new ideas but the continued high turnover under Jones raises questions as to why so many coaches come and go under the notorious taskmaster.

Despite this, the Rugby Football Union has decided to back him once again by hiring his chosen staff. However this raises questions of its own, with the RFU yet to tie him and Mitchell down to deals through to the next World Cup. Their current contracts expire next year.

The backroom reshuffle may also partly explain why Jones has been reluctant to make many immediate changes to the core of his squad. Although the 34-man squad contains eight uncapped players, the starting Xvs are likely to be consistent with recent selections.

Or perhaps, despite suggesting he would need to pick a new team in a new World Cup cycle, Jones is, for now, only thinking about winning the Six Nations.

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