Stuart Lancaster deserves praise for England’s achievements, says Eddie Jones

Stuart Lancaster has been praised for his work with England by current head coach Eddie Jones, as the national side chase a record-breaking 19th consecutive Test win in Dublin today (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire).
Stuart Lancaster has been praised for his work with England by current head coach Eddie Jones, as the national side chase a record-breaking 19th consecutive Test win in Dublin today (Picture: Nigel French/PA Wire).
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History beckons for England today; a world record 19th consecutive Test win and a second successive Six Nations Grand Slam.

How did they rise to this after the dramatic fall from grace of their own World Cup fewer than 18 months ago?

Eddie Jones is a large part of the answer. A no-nonsense rugby tactician of the highest order, who has transformed what had long been vaunted as a promising crop of players into one that gives no quarter and plays intense, intelligent Test match rugby for 80 minutes.

It has not all been plain sailing during the reign of the diminutive Australian; there have been poor performances, but even then, England have found a way to win a game.

They have a huge momentum on their side and it would take a brave man to bet against them today in Dublin, a city where twice in the Six Nations era the Grand Slam hopes of lesser Red Rose teams have come crashing down.

To trace where this stunning sequence of wins started requires a return to England’s lowest ebb and a meaningless game played in Manchester.

England had already been ousted from their home World Cup after morale-crushing defeats to Wales and Australia when they entertained minnows Uruguay in the final game of Pool A on October 3, 2015. Stuart Lancaster was a dead man walking. All the promise, all the near-misses of the previous years’ Six Nations tournaments had amounted to nothing but a false dawn and England were on their knees.

They were always going to win against Uruguay, and the result was neither here nor there, but somewhere amid all the despondency, hope remained.

What they needed was someone of Jones’s capabilities to release the shackles, to end the talk of culture and leadership groups that had characterised Lancaster’s tenure, and focus purely on results.

Nobody, not even the RFU who chased Jones, could have envisaged such a dramatic upturn in fortunes, but it was refreshing nonetheless to hear England’s current incumbent in the build-up to the game against Ireland this week move away from the bombast of ‘scaling mountains’ and ‘chasing history’ to take a moment to mention his predecessor.

Lancaster, after all, gave caps to all but two of the 23 men who will wear white this afternoon – Elliot Daly and Maro Itoje – and for that Jones is indebted.

“The guy I think should get a lot of credit for the team’s success is Stuart Lancaster,” said Jones, unprompted.

“He was the guy that brought this team through, went through some hard yards with them; most of the players are still the same.”

One of those is Lancaster’s old scrum-half at the Leeds Tykes academy, Danny Care, who will make his 71st appearance for England today off the bench.

He was part of Martin Johnson’s England side that lost a Grand Slam decider at the Aviva Stadium six years ago, and Lancaster’s team that was crushed by Wales when the stakes were just as high two years later.

But, understandably, when talking about this latest vintage, emboldened by a successful Grand Slam 12 months ago, Care is gushing in his praise.

“It is definitely the best team I have ever been a part of,” said the Leeds-born scrum-half.

“You look around the changing room and there are a lot of world-class players in a lot of positions.

“Everything seems to be clicking and going in the right direction. It’s not just our attack or our defence, it’s everything.

“Winning that next game will be a huge achievement for us. Eddie has talked about success and failure and how quickly it can turn to failure.

“We want to be successful and want to win as many games as we can. We’re not thinking about records and all our focus is about winning a Grand Slam.”