June proved to be a disappointing month for England and Eddie Jones, who now find themselves under huge, huge pressure ahead of the Rugby Union World Cup in Japan next year.
After a big failure at their own tournament back in 2015, England are expected to challenge under Jones in Japan, with the Red Rose making a fierce start to life under the Australian during his first two years at the helm of English rugby union.
However, what we have witnessed so far in 2018 suggests that the wheels are firmly coming off for Jones and England, who look way short of where they need to be if they are to be the side that challenges and ends New Zealand’s era of dominance on the international stage.
— South African Rugby (@Springboks) June 23, 2018
A sloppy Six Nations tournament left England behind Ireland, with a tour of South Africa in June offering Jones’ side the opportunity to put themselves back amongst world rugby’s elite.
Two years ago we saw Jones take his England side to Australia, where he masterminded a 3-0 victory over the Wallabies, with the Red Rose in inspired form and looking ahead to Japan, licking their lips about challenging the All Blacks.
Many were hoping for a repeat performance when they travelled to South Africa in June, however, that wasn’t to happen. The Springboks steamrolled England during the first two Test matches, putting themselves into an unassailable lead, with Jones’ side only able to clinch a consolation in the third and final Test.
That result in South Africa has left South Africa at 9/1 to be victorious in Japan, and whilst England remain third favourites to win the competition, their odds are sliding out to 6/1 with bet365’s rugby union betting market.
South Africa were too strong for England during the opening two Test matches, with the Springboks starting to look something like the formidable outfit we are used to seeing on the international stage. Of course, the third Test showed up some frailties, but June was a good month for them, looking ahead to Japan.
For their deflated opponents, who looked slow in the forwards, particularly the back-row, big questions need answering. Of course, players are out injured, leaving Mike Brown to cover on the wing and the internationally inexperienced Henry Slade at outside centre, but that should’ve been no excuse.
The squad Jones had available to him had enough about them to come away with a series victory, even if the South Africans are back on the rise.
The Red Rose will try to rebuild ahead of next year, with Jones needing to take the positives out of such a crushing start to 2018. In the long run, we could well look back on this tour and highlight it as a turning point for England, should they go on to do great things. However, that was also said about a failed Six Nations campaign.
Jones’ side might still harbour hopes of something special in Japan, but June was more an indication that the southern hemisphere, and South Africa in particular, might be the ones to challenge the All Blacks’ era of dominance.