In Focus

Rejuvenated England show spirit, unity and ‘never-say-die courage’

Eddie Jones’s new-look side complete autumn Test clean sweep by toppling South Africa

Since losing the 2019 World Cup to South Africa, England’s rugby team have been an uninspiring prospect, said Robert Kitson in The Observer. Their play has been stodgy and risk-averse, their results decidedly mixed. In the Six Nations earlier this year, they slumped to a lowly fifth place – a result that led to calls for the sacking of their coach, Eddie Jones. 

But what a transformation has taken place since, said Oliver Brown in The Daily Telegraph. Over the summer, Jones refreshed England’s squad, bringing in a clutch of talented young players – notably the Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith – and recalibrated his side’s tactics. The results have been plain to see during this autumn’s internationals. Jones’s side have simply been unrecognisable from the “rabble” they resembled earlier this year – in a series of fine performances they have achieved a clean sweep of victories in their three Tests. 

The spirit and unity of the new-look England were plain to see at Twickenham on Saturday, when they took on South Africa, said Chris Foy in the Daily Mail. It was an immensely challenging match, and for much of it Jones’s side were “under siege against a dominant South African pack”. But displaying a “never-say-die courage”, they held their own magnificently – and ultimately clinched a last-gasp victory when Smith drew a penalty a minute from the end within clear sight of the posts. Showing a composure that belied his age and experience, the 22-year-old nervelessly kicked it home to give his side a one-point victory.

South Africa shouldn’t have lost this, said Stuart Barnes in The Times. Clearly the better side, they scored 18 points in penalties to England’s eight – a difference that normally would result in a comfortable victory. In short, the Springboks “blew it”. Still, Jones deserves applause for adopting more adventurous tactics and selecting with an eye to the future. Finally, his England look like a side worth following.

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