Jason Robinson: England should have kept Eddie Jones and won't make it past the Rugby World Cup semi-final
Jason Robinson will forever hold a place in English rugby union folklore for his try against Australia in the 2003 World Cup final victory in Sydney, but he doesn’t fancy this current crop’s chances of emulating that feat in France over the coming weeks.
A favourable draw for the 2023 Rugby World Cup means England should still be capable of reaching the semi-final, believes Robinson, but he fears their old boss Jones might go even further now he is in charge of his native Australia.
“Eddie Jones did some great things with England, look at the 2015 World Cup and how that was an absolute disaster, Eddie Jones came in and transformed the team,” said Leeds-born Robinson.
"All of a sudden, we're now going through another transition. For me, Eddie needed to go (well) before, or, he needed to stay until after the World Cup, he's got a 90 per cent win record in World Cups, but that said, Steve Borthwick has come in and it all takes time.
"It takes time for them as coaches coming from a club, it's completely different.
"Everybody is writing Australia off. They have a young team and have left out some of the older and experienced players.
"Eddie Jones is batting off pressure left, right and centre. He doesn't care about anything! The dark horses will be a team that has been written off, like Australia, who can find form.”
England have similarly been written off, and since Borthwick succeeded Jones in December have won just three of their first nine games.
Saturday’s clash with Argentina in Marseille should, on paper, decide who tops Pool D, and with further games to come against Japan and minnows Chile and Samoa, even second place would book a potential quarter-final against the winners of Pool C, either Australia, Wales or Fiji.
Yet even with a favourable path, Robinson is worried about the lack of cohesion in a team that is missing its suspended captain, Owen Farrell, for the first two games.
"Looking at some of the groups, I'm so glad we're not in with Ireland and South Africa,” Robinson told the the In The Zone podcast.
"England don't have to hit 100 per cent form right away, if they can just claw back some, there's no reason why England can't get to a semi-final.
"At the moment, there's some soul-searching to be done. England have just lost their way, how they play and lost their identity.
"What are we? When England play, we always have a strong pack, one to take on anybody in the world in scrums, line-outs, set-pieces and breakdowns.
"That becomes your platform to play off and at the moment, because we've lost form, teams are coming to Twickenham and thinking 'we can do this'. In sport, you can build momentum and lose it really quickly.
"England have the ingredients in the team to make the cake.
"At the moment, they're just not putting the right ingredients in at the right time.
“This is a very difficult time for England. I've watched the team over numerous years and I think that in this moment in time, we've not gone through a period where we've played as badly.
"We're not getting the results and confidence doesn't seem to be there. I suppose, looking at how we're playing, we don't seem to have found our game and what we are as a team.”
Does Robinson see any similarities to the World Cups he played in in 2003 and 2007, on two very different England teams who reached the final?
"In 2003, we knew what we were. We knew our strengths and we played to them,” said Robinson.
"England, at the moment, don't know where those answers are coming from.
"I'm hoping it was like the case in 2007 when everybody had written us off. I know how hard it is when you leave the field and you've been beaten, there's no worse feeling, it's not something you can park on a Saturday, this is in my head all week, in everything I do.
"You go shopping and somebody comes up to you and says 'you guys were garbage at the weekend', it just doesn't leave you. That's the drive to put it right.”
Asked to stick his neck out for a winner, Robinson points to the world’s top-ranked side, one whose coach he is very familiar with from their time playing rugby league for Wigan in the nineties.
“Ireland are playing some great rugby,” offered Robinson.
"They are in a great place at the moment and there's an expectation on them, it's alright winning Six Nations and doing that, the World Cup is another level of pressure and only time will tell if they can handle that.
”I know the type of character Andy Farrell is. If you're under a coach that has been there and done it and has dealt with the pressures, it’s hugely beneficial.
“For attention to detail and being the best you can be, I can't think of a better person to be in there and get that out of a team, than Andy.”