TWICKENHAM — This was the most curious of matches. The scoreboard showed a record 58-15 win over Fiji; it was job done but England at times looked vulnerable.
Rhyme and reason was sometimes thrown into the cold, November air in a quiet Twickenham. For the first 30 minutes England played with a wonderful fluidity, exploiting Fijian lapses and lack of organisation to rack up a point a minute.
But then the England systems started to creak, holes opened and suddenly the intensity had gone. The second half was at times played at walking pace with only momentary bursts from the Fijians and England’s back three interrupting the odd half cooked version of Swing, Low.
The question hovering over this game is exactly what Eddie Jones would have learned from a match as, with the best will in the world, England were always going to win.
The various close-ups of Jones’ face which appeared on the two big screens at Twickenham showed the characteristic upturned left eyebrow and the odd shake of the head.
He will be pleased with their execution when try-scoring opportunities allowed but will be fuming at their defensive lapses. If they were a six out of 10 last week, you imagine he’ll offer this a lower mark.
There were positives for England and if Jones was to take heart from a handful of performances then Elliot Daly’s would be high up. In his first start on the wing since March 2013, and his first for England, he showcased his versatility with a performance of supreme assuredness.
He drifted between his left wing berth and operating in the midfield with ease and took his try well. With Fijian kicking a little wayward, the ball rarely bounced around him and the way he popped up in the backline moves while also staying patiently on the wing would have pleased Jones.
Alex Goode similarly impressed. His first involvement in the match was to, uncharacteristically, let a ball bounce in front of him but that was the only time he really showed nerves. Like Daly he was patient for his try and again like Daly he slotted into England’s backline as a playmaker, a dummy runner and the man to carry forward.
Mike Brown has real competition for that fullback shirt. Completing the back three was Semesa Rokoduguni in his second cap and he showcased his attacking ability in devastating fashion.
He is someone who is a ruthless finisher, a man so comfortable under the high ball and someone who manages to exploit any holes in opposition defences.
But under the ever-critical eye of Jones, he will look at how Nemani Nadolo crashed through him – stopping the giant wing is no easy task, mind — and then his positioning in the build up to the lineout which teed up Fiji’s second try.
These positional nuances can be fixed, he’s incredibly talented, but it remains to be seen if Jones wants to marshal that in-camp or ask for improvement back at Bath, restoring Marland Yarde in the process.
This was more a match where Jones got to test England’s systems. During the week he talked about how the decision to play Daly on the flank and start Goode ahead of Brown was to build strength in depth ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
Those are perhaps the most important lessons. You rarely get a free hit in international rugby but in a bizarre sort of way, these are the sorts of matches where Jones may learn the most.
The England players’ focus, positioning and decision-making were all questioned by Fiji. Their scramble defence also had a work out.
Up next is Argentina who will offer a far sterner test and it remains to be seen if Jones keeps the faith with those who were offered the opportunity of laying down their England marker.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/18086303/a-record-win-fiji-why-did-eddie-jones-england-look-vulnerable
A record win – but England looked vulnerable
www.espn.co.uk – RUGBY