The first try of the England Six Nations rugby campaign took all of only 92 seconds – but anyone who has followed Eddie Jones’ career would have seen a similarly sharp start to a match before.
Best rugby under his watch
Back in 2003, in the semifinal of the Rugby World Cup, Australia played probably the best five minutes of their time under Jones. Watch the video below (7th minute onwards) and marvel at an almost perfect opening by a team in any rugby match.
Almost every pass stuck, all the runs were coming from deep and at pace, and practically every confrontation was won with frightening intensity.
And this was against tournament co-favourites New Zealand, who had just four months earlier smashed the Wallabies 50-21 — in Sydney.
Man with a Plan
There were calls then for Jones to be sacked, but Jones always insisted that he had a bigger picture in mind and a plan in hand.
And so it proved. That beginning was a breathtaking passage of play and the only downside was that it didn’t result in a try. But it set the tone for the match, and it was no surprise that Australia scored a 10th minute try, through Stirling Mortlock, who intercepted a speculative Carlos Spencer pass, and went on to win 22-10 in a stunning upset.
Jones has said this opening stanza against the All Blacks was the best rugby his Wallabies played. The pre-tournament no-hopers subsequently went down to the wire against England in the final, losing 20-17 in extra time.
Now it’s about attack
Fast forward to last Saturday, and again Jones came into the tournament under some pressure after an almost disastrous 2018, when England finished fifth in the Six Nations and lost a series to South Africa 2-1.
Only a reasonably good November series of internationals — in which they beat South Africa, Japan and Australia and lost narrowly to New Zealand — quelled talk of his removal.
But again, as he had been saying since he took on the job in 2015, Jones had a plan. One that involved peaking at the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The first few years of his plan, he said, was to concentrate on defence, set pieces and fitness. Hence, all the very heavy, intensive training over the past three years. The final part of the jigsaw, in the months leading up to the World Cup, would be about developing the team’s attack — and we saw a few glimpses of that in Saturday’s win.
Tries made on the training paddock
While there was an element of fortune involved in at least one of the tries, two of the four tries England scored were well constructed and had obviously been designed on the training field.
The first try especially was a brilliant ensemble piece that involved hooker Jamie George’s quick throw in long to inside-centre Manu Tuilagi, two bullocking runs by Tuilagi, a sharp cut-out pass by Owen Farrell, and finished off in the corner by winger Jonny May after a deft pass from Elliot Daly.
And four tries against Ireland is some feat: the Irish, remember, prevented the All Blacks from crossing their line barely three months ago.
The Irish were overwhelming favourites so you could list this as another Eddie Jones upset: perhaps not in the same league as Japan vs South Africa, 2015, but as big as Australia 22 NZ 10 in 2003.
So, and unless Saturday was a false dawn, the Eddie Jones story continues.
France this weekend will prove formidable adversaries, but England should be on a high and should have enough to win, being at home.
After that will come Wales vs England, in Cardiff — a probable tournament decider.
We cannot wait.