Time for Jones’ England to show attack

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Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 12 March Kick-off: 16:45 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio Ulster; text commentary and highlights on BBC Sport website and mobile app.

England head coach Eddie Jones is under pressure to show his side’s attacking ability in Saturday’s Six Nations game against Ireland, says Matt Dawson.

Both teams need victory at Twickenham to have any hope of taking the title and Ireland have impressed more so far.

England lost to Scotland before finding fluidity in Italy which they misplaced again in a one-try win against Wales.

“Over the last four years there have been continuous questions about England’s attack,” Dawson said.

The former scrum-half said on BBC Radio 5 Live England “have brought the pressure on themselves” at Twickenham because of “underperformance” earlier in the tournament.

“Now there should be a bit of pressure about what they are going to be like when the big guns are in town,” he continued.

“It’s going to be a very different fixture. England know that if they don’t get it right they are going to get turned over.”

Jones’ ‘control’ could mean players are not at their best

Jones has once again placed his faith in the young and talented half-back pairing of Harry Randall and Marcus Smith.

The duo both offer a fast-paced, creative game to their clubs Bristol and Harlequins, but they were unable to instil this in England as the side held on for victory against Wales.

Dawson said “it doesn’t feel like the players are playing to the best of their team ability” and suggested this could be because of coaching, the style of play desired by Jones or “the control he wants to have over the players”.

“There is no one grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and saying what they have practised is just not working and they need to change it up,” he added.

“I don’t know if it is because they are not that kind of player or they are wary of doing it and not getting picked the week after.

“When Ireland create the pressure, when the game is really tight, how are England going to manufacture tries out of nothing?”

A Six Nations table showing France in first with 14 points, Ireland in second with 11 points, England in third with 10 points, Scotland in fourth on five points, Wales in fifth with five points and an inferior points difference, and Italy bottom with no points
How the Six Nations table stood after round three

‘What has Jones been doing since World Cup?’ – Nicol

Former Scotland scrum-half Andy Nicol agreed with Dawson, saying England “have not put in a good performance yet” during this Six Nations.

The side finished fifth in the 2021 tournament and, though they are currently battling for the title, defeat in their last two games could see them slip towards the bottom of the table again.

Nicol believes “there is every chance” England’s victories against Italy and Wales will be the only ones they claim in this year’s championship.

Jones says his young players are still learning, but Nicol thinks the side are “making excuses” for their lack of gameplan.

“If I was an England fan I would be really disappointed to hear that it is a work in progress,” he said.

“What has he [Jones] been doing since the World Cup final in 2019? Why has he waited so long to get 18 months out from a World Cup and your backline is a work in progress?”

‘Ireland must deliver in big games’ – Horgan

Former Ireland wing Shane Horgan believes there is some pressure on Ireland too.

Andy Farrell’s side claimed a statement win against New Zealand in November and Horgan says despite some impressive form, they have not yet hit those heights in 2022.

After a rampant win against Wales, Ireland put up a good fight in defeat to France before strolling past 12-man Italy in round three.

“Ireland did extremely well in the autumn internationals,” offered Horgan.

“They regressed a bit against France. There will be pressure to see if this change is real when it comes to the big games.

“Can they get back to the performances we saw in the autumn? If they can deliver, then Ireland have got over a significant barrier.”

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