England lost the first Test in South Africa
England’s red line is 10 per game but they have only kept under that figure once in 2018, against Italy. So the squad took it upon themselves to address the debilitating issue after Eddie Jones at last eased back on training.
The England coach’s relentless methods were blamed for the flat performances in the Six Nations but after the ferocious pace of the first Test against South Africa, Jones has reined back, allowing the team space to address one of their most pressing problems.
England conceded 12 penalties to the Springboks’ five at Ellis Park, taking their total to an unacceptable 70 in six games this year.
“We have spoken about discipline before – it isn’t like it’s been brushed over. In the Six Nations it killed us and it was as bad as ever at the weekend,” said wing Jonny May.
“In the meeting we had last night the theme literally was discipline. Owen [Farrell] leads it and he’s got a leadership group around him, but everyone in the team has a role to be a responder, a listener, to give information, to help pull in the same direction.
“Hopefully we have realised – we should have realised by now – the impact one penalty has on the momentum of a game, let alone back-to-back penalties. It really does have a huge impact.
England head coach Eddie Jones has demanded better from his side
We have spoken about discipline before
“You think, ‘Oh, one little penalty here’…but we looked back at the Ireland game. I think it was Owen, on a kick chase, took Sexton out. Penalty. Boom, lineout penalty. Boom, high ball, try. It’s like the Butterfly Effect.”
May’s oblique reference, borrowed from deep mathematics, refers to the unintended consequences of the smallest of triggers. In it the flapping of a butterfly’s wings eventually ends up causing a typhoon.
There was no sign of a typhoon in Durban yesterday – or a cloud come to that – but the theory holds when it comes to picking apart England’s recent failures.
It isn’t just the penalty-kick points that England’s indiscipline hands their opponents but whole swathes of momentum in games.
“It’s such a frustrating one because the guys in our team don’t want to be giving away penalties. We know better than that. But at the moment, hands up, it’s on us, because it’s not good enough,” said May.
“It’s frustrating to be sat here saying the same thing. We didn’t adapt or learn quickly enough on the pitch.
“Maybe what we’re doing is trying a bit too hard, forcing it a bit too much and giving away penalties.”
South Africa turned the tables on England at Ellis Park
In ordinary circumstances the primary culprit – Maro Itoje – would be looking over his shoulder anxiously but there is no chance of the Saracen being dropped for Saturday’s second Test given the state of England’s second-row resources on this tour.
Nick Isiekwe is presumably unpickable after being hauled off by Eddie Jones before half-time in Johannesburg, which leaves a potential headache if Joe Launchbury, who missed the first Test with a calf injury, does not recover in time.
The uncapped Jonny Hill is the other specialist second row in the party and would be the next cab off the rank. The Uber option is Brad Shields, who deputised in extremis for Isiekwe at the weekend but is ostensibly a back row.
“With Brad we have lock cover,” said scrum coach Neal Hatley. “If it comes down to it we are comfortable to start with him.
“He got 45 minutes in the second row at the weekend. He has played a bit there for the Hurricanes and trained in the second row as well.”
While Launchbury remains a significant doubt, bench hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie is on track to be fit for Bloemfontein after a hamstring strain.
Schalk Brits is back in the South Africa camp
MEANWHILE, Schalk Brits is considering combining the Test arena with university beer rugby after his surprise recall by the Springboks.
The 37-year-old hooker, who has come out of retirement to join up with the South Africa squad, has a confirmed place at Cambridge University awaiting him in September with the possibility of an option at Oxford too.
But with South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus keen for him to play on until next year’s World Cup, Brits could find himself leading a bizarre rugby double life as his career goes into extra time.
“I was sipping tequilas in Ibiza with my wife and three boys when I got a text message from someone, and I didn’t know who it was, asking if I would like to play a bit more rugby,” explained the former Saracen. “Then when I tried to find a little more as to who was on the other end of the text, that person told me he was Rassie.
“I thought someone was taking the piss or playing a practical joke on me. So then I phoned Vincent Koch at Saracens to send me Rassie’s contact details. Before I knew it I was part of the Springboks and part of this amazing squad.
“I had a good conversation this morning with Rassie and we’ll see after these two games how it goes. There are a lot of other things that need to be addressed, and there a lot of opportunities in the real world away from rugby.
“From my point of view, I still want to do either the Cambridge or Oxford experience, and that would start in September.
“The one thing I do know is that I don’t have a rugby club in the UK to play for so that makes it quite tricky from that point of view. It would be quite funny if I was to play for the Springboks and the Varsity at the same time.”
Brits, who attended the first Test as a fan, could square up to Jamie George and his other former Saracens team-mates as the series moves onto Bloemfontein this weekend.
“I actually had coffee with all the Saracens boys in Johannesburg on Sunday morning and it was fantastic seeing them. They are like brothers to me,” he said.
“Myself and Jamie have been texting each other saying how weird this would be if we were playing against each other. He knows all my strength and weaknesses and vice-versa.
“The probability is not very likely this week – I still need to understand these structures they play to here – but maybe by next weekend we’ll see.”
HARLEQUINS have appointed Australian Billy Millard, who formerly worked with Cardiff Blues, as general manager.
Northampton have signed Australian wing Andrew Kellaway, 22, from the Waratahs.
Source : EXPRESS