England of Marcus Smith and Freddie Steward look fluid and exciting

FOR all those perturbed by England’s lack of invention and creativity over the last year or so – and there were plenty – the initial signs of Eddie Jones’ new direction will be encouraging.

There were flashes of it on Saturday, with players in motion on and off the ball, options inside and out, angles being run not often seen before.

Jones, quite rightly, extolled Freddie Steward’s seventh-minute try, the 20-year-old Leicester Tigers full-back – one of those fresh faces injected in after a woeful Six Nations – coruscating through off a short ball from another, the 22-year-old fly-half Marcus Smith, to leave Australia’s bemused defence all at sea.

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Smith was named at No 10 with Owen Farrell at inside centre but, for many of England’s better attacking moments at Twickenham, the captain was first receiver with his dashing younger team-mate outside.

Similarly, Manu Tuiliagi, named on the wing for the first time since 2014, inevitably popped up in midfield often and some of centre Henry Slade’s most piercing involvements came when from a No 15 position.

This England team is fluid, to say the least and Jones asserted afterwards how he felt numbers on jerseys should really not matter in the modern era.

Do players need convincing to do that, though?

“Yes, it is one of the hardest things to do,” said the Australian, who maintained his 100 per cent winning record over his fellow countrymen since taking on the Red Rose job in 2015.

England's Freddie Steward (right) celebrates after scoring his team's first try during the Autumn International match at Twickenham Stadium (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

“We have got some great assistant coaches. We have added Richard Cockerill, Martin Gleeson and Anthony Seibold and they have all done a really good job in getting the players to understand that we want to play with a different way of thinking.

“Martin Gleeson particularly with the attack has done a fantastic job and that first try we scored to me was almost like a textbook try against a half push-up defence.

“Freddie Steward takes a short ball, attacks the inside shoulders. Beautiful.

“Then we have got enough movement out the back in case the defender goes hard at Freddie, then we have the options at the back.

Australia's Hunter Paisami (right) tackles England's Marcus Smith (left) during the Autumn International (Picture: PA)

“There were a couple of times we missed slight opportunities where if we were a bit straighter in the way we came around the corner then we could have scored a couple more tries.

“We were really delighted in the way that the players firstly accepted the way we want to play differently and secondly our execution levels are still a long way away from where we want them to be, but they are moving in the right direction.”

The rugby league influence of Gleeson is already plain to see while, similarly, Jones has been pleased with the immediate impact of Seibold, the former Brisbane Broncos chief and Hull KR captain, who, as defence coach, has overseen two games now without conceding a single try.

Australia were limited to five James O’Connor penalties on Saturday and, although the last one of those got his side to within a point at 16-15 behind early in the second period, it was obvious England would always have just a little too much.

England's Freddie Steward dives to score his team's first try against Australia (Picture: PA)

Even given the late upheaval, losing their second loosehead prop to Covid when Ellis Genge followed Joe Marler into isolation on Thursday, they adapted well.

Indeed, Jones was delighted with the impact of 21-year-old Scottish-born Bevan Rodd on his debut as the third-choice No 1, especially against such an experienced Australian front-row.

England did waste a couple of gilt-edged chances, Slade bombing an overlap in the first half after Farrell and Smith had created him some space, the centre passing too early meaning Jonny May was bundled into touch.

When Courtney Lawes’ delicate hands put Jamie George surging through, the hooker was only stopped illegally by Tom Wright. The winger was sin-binned for that offence on the half-hour (Wallabies prop Angus Bell was also yellow carded for a tip tackle on Lawes early in the second period) Farrell’s kick making it 16-9, before George did get over the line after peeling brilliantly from the back of a driving maul. However, just as he was about to touch down, desperate Wallabies scrum-half Nic White swung an arm and dislodged the ball. O’Connor responded with penalties either side of the break but England got back in control.

Jonny Hill, who was towering at lock, was held up after one storming surge and, in contrast, Australia’s attacks were limited.

Farrell finished with five penalties before limping off with an ankle injury, Smith slotting a penalty and converting Jamie Blamire’s last-minute try.

England: Steward; Tuilagi, Slade, Farrell (Malins 69), May; Smith, Youngs (Quirke 72); Rodd (Davison 72), George (Blamire 40), Sinckler (Stuart 72), Itoje, Hill (Ewels 74), Lawes (Simmonds 75), Underhill (Dombrandt 48, Underhill 58, Dombrandt 65), Curry.

Australia: Beale; Kellaway, Ikitau, Paisami, Wright (Perese 67); O’Connor (Lolesio 74), White; Bell (Robertson 73), Fainga’a (Latu 65), Slipper (Hoskins 68), Arnold (Skelton 63), Rodda, Leota, Hooper (Samu 55), Valetini.