Eddie Jones has revealed he received a number of calls last week from England players eager to address the indiscipline that has ruined their Guinness Six Nations title defence.
Following the 40-24 mauling by Wales, the squad left camp for a scheduled break week but the shortcoming of England’s Championship-high penalty count compelled some to ring Jones.
Across the opening three rounds, the team have leaked a ruinous average of 13.6 penalties per game with the collapse at the Principality Stadium the nadir. Maro Itoje alone conceded five.
Improved discipline has become England’s number one priority and Jones detects a high level of motivation to stop incurring the wrath of referees.
“No one goes out there and tries to give away penalties. Everyone is working hard but sometimes players just over-exert in certain areas,” Jones said.
“Those players we’ll have a quiet chat to and they’ve been reflecting on it. I’ve had at least three or four players ring me during the week to talk about how they need to tend to their errors. That’s the great honesty of this team. We’ll keep working on that.
“There are other little bits and pieces you can do, but the main thing is to understand your responsibility at that point in the game.
“We looked at the Wales game. We’re disappointed that we didn’t handle that last 20 minutes better. Unfortunately we didn’t finish that game off well.”
England’s next assignment is against France at Twickenham on Saturday before their Six Nations ends against Ireland in Dublin the following weekend.
Sam Underhill made a successful comeback from a hip injury for Bath against Exeter on Saturday but Jones stated that the squad size limit of 28 players means he can not pick the big-hitting flanker.
Emphatic losses to Scotland and Wales are forcing England to rescue their Six Nations from disaster, while in the process freshening up an underperforming team.
“We are going through a transition period now,” Jones said. “We had a fairly settled team from 2019 until now and, like most teams when you have had a settled period, there needs to be a little bit of a revision of your members and freshen it up and we are going through that at the moment.
“I would say anywhere up to 70 per cent of this squad will go through to the World Cup, but it will be dependent on their desire, their form and their fitness. We take all of those things into consideration.”
An outbreak of coronavirus in France’s squad resulted in the postponement of their round-three match against Scotland, meaning the tournament favourites will not have played for a month when they arrive at Twickenham.
“We’ve seen teams play very well after breaks and teams play not so well after a break. We’re more concerned about ourselves this week rather than what France will bring,” Jones said.
“We know they’ll be well organised, big and physical in the forwards. The good attributes they bring to the game won’t have changed and we’ll have to find the best of ourselves.”
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