LONDON (Reuters) - After England’s kicking destroyed France, Eddie Jones said he expected teams to adjust their defending to deal with it, but he probably did not think the modification would occur so quickly that the approach was virtually nullified in their next game.
So, instead of chalking up a third successive convincing Six Nations victory on Saturday England were beaten 21-13 by a Wales team who had done little of note in their first two games but are now looking greedily at their own Grand Slam.
Wales had done their homework for sure and had the added benefit of British and Irish Lion Liam Williams at fullback whereas Ireland and France thought, spectacularly wrongly, that they could get away with a non-specialist in the position.
As a result something that worked so well in Dublin and at Twickenham, brought little joy in Cardiff.
The Welsh back three were confident and competent under the rain of high kicks delivered by Owen Farrell and Ben Youngs and the home team’s positional discipline meant there was never as much space for England to thread the grubbers that had produced so many tries in the previous two games.
“They beat us in the air,” Jones admitted, before adding the regulation line that his team would learn from the defeat.
It is by no means ‘back to the drawing board’ for Jones as England were powerful and impressive in many areas of the game.
But the Australian will waste little time in reminding his players that if Plan A is not working, it is probably a good idea to try Plan B - assuming there is one.
After forging a 10-3 half-time lead on Saturday England managed a solitary Farrell penalty in the second half, while shipping 18 points.
For long periods they did not seem to be building any sort of attack, almost going through the mechanical motions with no end-product.
The result was that Wales gained the upper hand in possession and territory and that pressure eventually told as late tries for Cory Hill and Josh Adams won the match.
“What undid England was a lack of accuracy and a touch of tactical inertia,” former captain Lawrence Dallaglio wrote in the Sunday Times. “The accuracy deficit was manifest in the kicking game in the second half.
“The Wales back three were not put under enough pressure and grew in stature and confidence. That went for all the men in red, who had clearly done some re-calibration of their own at halftime.”
Dallaglio said that by the time England woke up to the fact that Wales had changed their approach it was too late - which will provide more ‘learnings’ for the players and coaching team this week as they prepare for their final two games against Italy and Scotland.
Victories in those two Twickenham encounters, which form and history suggests should be as straightforward as anything the Six Nations can provide, will still give England a fighting chance of winning the title but they now need Wales to slip up in one of their last two against Scotland and Ireland.
The bigger picture for Jones, with an eye on the World Cup, is to ensure England are more tactically nimble as their opponents in Japan will be studying the tapes of Saturday’s game a lot more closely than those of the previous two.
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Sudipto Ganguly