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Rugby Union update: England, Wales

Rugby Autumn Internationals, Six Nations, World Cup 2019 Japan tickets available now

Before the Six Nations competition began, England's focus was their quest for an unprecedented third successive title in the popular championship as they looked to narrow the gap on New Zealand before World Cup 2019. Seven weeks later it is instead Ireland who have emerged Grand Slam Six Nations winners. Now Ireland are considered as the biggest threat to the New Zealand All Blacks supremacy at the upcoming Rugby 2019 World Cup Japan. The key to Ireland’s success in winning the NatWest 6 Nations was their focus, fitness, efficiency, accuracy and inspiration. Another key factor to Ireland winning the Grand Slam is the leadership genius of Joe Schmidt, their Kiwi head coach. Schmidt’s contract expires after Japan 2019. Steve Hansen's successful reign as New Zealand coach is likely to draw to a close at the same time and reportedly Schmidt is in line to take over the All Blacks. Although England's fortunes plummeted in the 2018 Six Nations championship, northern hemisphere rugby is looking strong. The magnificent Ireland side were excellent in winning their Grand Slam. Wales runners-up finish was secured despite a horrible injury crisis, as Wales coach Warren Gatland experienced the depth of his side nonetheless. Scotland displayed flashes of excellence but displayed shortcomings on the road. France showed signs of a genuine revival.

A key to England’s fall was that Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola was badly missed. Vunipola is an outstanding carrier, good over the ball and brutal in defense, and the importance of the giant to England winning became clearer in his absence. A fractured arm is his latest ailment that robbed the fallen champions of their most destructive player. Vunipola will be welcomed back with open arms for England’s summer tour to South Africa. In his absence, England lost a rallying point in the forwards. England lapsed into a crisis with a third successive defeat that leaves them above only Italy in the NatWest 6 Nations tournament in what was their worst Six Nations performance since 1987. Supplying the largest contingent to the previous year's British and Irish Lions tour has had its toll on the squad, but the deficiencies extend far beyond fatigue. After back-to-back Six Nations titles and series wins in Australia and Argentina, Jones is going through a rough period following the dismal championship campaign that ended in a 24-15 defeat by Grand Slam champions Ireland. England’s fifth-place finish in this year’s Six Nations is the Red Rose’s worst result in 31 years. The fall has triggered questions of Jones’ approach in his role as head coach and who is holding him to account for his decisions. At present Brown is Jones’ immediate line manager, but throughout the Australian’s two-and-a-half year reign he has assumed an all-controlling position with little-to-no interference from above given the success that he has brought the nation. However England boss Eddie Jones has been backed to lead England Rugby to the 2019 Rugby World Cup without the need for an oversight to assess his decision-making, with Rugby Football Union chief executive Steve Brown stating that “the first person that puts Eddie straight is Eddie”. Ireland’s performance director David Nucifora acts as a middle-man between head coach Joe Schmidt and chief executive Philip Browne is a successful model that could be copied in order to bring the best out of Jones, but Brown dismissed this prospect.

“The first person that puts Eddie straight is Eddie,” Brown said. “Eddie is self-critical, challenges himself and that’s something I’ve seen in the seven months I’ve been his boss that is quite key. I am ultimately his boss, he reports to me. Eddie and I meet weekly and pretty much have daily dialogue so aware of pretty much everything that is going on in camp and actually quite a lot of the rugby detail too and that is quite good for me because I can check we’re on the right track, that we are giving the support that is needed and that I can call on the resources and expertise needed when it appropriate and Eddie is not shy in asking for either. He has a great network of people he talks to and is open-minded and learning constantly.”

“I don’t have a problem with it, because at the end of the day the buck stops with me. I am the Chief Exec of the RFU, the buck stops with me. Ultimately, I am responsible for the performances of all of the people in the RFU including Eddie and the England team,” added Brown. Asked whether a performance director or similar would help after the extremely disappointing Six Nation result. “You say that but ultimately I’d still be responsible.” Australian Jones was the hire of Brown’s predecessor Ian Ritchie in December 2015. While Ritchie may be responsible for Jones’ appointment, Brown would certainly be the man behind keeping Jones in the job even if things continue to unravel. After ending the Six Nations with three straight defeats, England next head on a hard three-Test tour of South Africa. Jones may choose to rest a number of players if he still has fitness concerns over his British and Irish Lions players. Wales head coach Warren Gatland warned that the losing run could easily spiral into six matches if England are whitewashed on the summer tour, and with Australia and New Zealand up first in the autumn internationals in November, the prospect of going 0-8 is not as farfetched as it seemed before the Six Nations began.

After stating that it will take something major to dismiss Jones, Brown confirmed that England are too far into the Rugby World Cup cycle to be thinking about dismissing him even if a dreadful 0-8 run happens. “We have to stick by Jones,” Brown said. “It has always been our plan. You wouldn’t want to think about that run of results but what I am confident about is that there is a position where we would recover at some point. Ultimately the goal is to have stability and consistency through to the World Cup. We are going to have to manage the results as we go but the plan is to get them back to where they were.” Eddie Jones was involved in two ugly scenes during the Six Nations. Jones was verbally and physically abused on two train journeys from Edinburgh to London via Manchester by drunken Scotland fans, Jones has announced that he will no longer take public transport, with Brown adding that Jones always has the option to use RFU-provided transport. Eddie Jones apologized for comments he made on Ireland and Wales in an embarrassing episode in which he called Ireland “scummy” and Wales a “little s*** country” during a private business function, which Brown reiterated both Jones and the RFU had apologized for.

“We were highly apologetic as was Eddie and think they don’t represent any deep-rooted views he has, and certainly don’t represent ours as a union,” Brown explained. “I spoke to CEOs of Ireland and Wales. They were gracious in response and we have drawn a line under it and moved on. It was an unfortunate situation, not one we want to be in. But we have dealt with it. Eddie is allowed to make a limited number of speaking engagements in his contract and I have to authorize all of those. We keep a close eye on that. The arrangement is a fair one and appropriate for someone of his standing and if we stick to that, I don’t think there will be a problem.” As snow fell on south-west London, England was dethroned and stripped of their 2017 Six Nations title bu the Ireland Rugby Team. Battered, bruised and beaten by the Irish, England have now lost three games in a row and find themselves caught in a surprise crisis - one that raises numerous questions of this English side. What comes next for England? Do they have the player quality to genuinely compete at next year’s World Cup Japan? And will Jones - a man who earlier this week said he thrives “under the pump” - be the man to revive the Red Rose?

England’s rugby players have dismissed talk of any crisis following Saturday’s 24-15 defeat by Ireland at Twickenham. The defeat, England’s third consecutive loss of the Six Nations, has raised questions over the side’s credentials ahead of this year’s tour of South Africa and next summer’s World Cup 2018 Japan. England’s players are defiant in the wake of defeat, insisting the side “will stick together and move forward”. “It hurts massively, there’s no denying that and there’s no getting away from it,” Chris Robshaw said. “But for us it’s all about what we do next. It’s about how we respond to this. We have to stick together. We’re not a million miles away. We’ve not suddenly become a bad team overnight. We’ve just slipped off a little bit and there are areas we need to improve on. It’s a tough one really. I don’t really know how to put my finger on it or explain it. Confidence is such a massive thing in sport. I wouldn’t say we lack confidence but we probably don’t have that swagger we had two years ago. We need to find a way to get that back. We need to look at ourselves individually and as a team, and pull together.”

James Haskell made a similar statement after the championship. “Any goal you have in life, an objective, there will be hard times,” said Haskell. “There will be people who come up with a plan or an idea, whether in sport or business, who say you are mad. You have to work through that. You have good days, you have bad days. Rugby is like a rollercoaster. You have those amazing moments. At the moment we are at the bottom of the roller coaster and it is not going according to plan. You have to keep your head and understand that this period is all about learning and it is a team that can come out of a period like this, learn, identify, stick together and becomes stronger.” England wing Jonny May, was also asked about his England side and admitted that England's poor discipline needed addressing. “I’m not too unconfident, I still believe in this group, and like I said we’re not panicking at all. It’s quite clear what we need to work on and we’ll get to work on it,” said May. “At the moment you’d say our discipline hasn’t been good enough. It’s just discipline – that comes from within us, it’s not a coaching thing it’s an individual thing – and maybe us looking at how we generate momentum when we’re on the back foot.”

England’s attacking game displayed anger and focus as Jones’ men proved they have the quality needed to put points on teams of Ireland’s caliber. Owen Farrell’s boot, a threatening weapon against Wales, was put to good against Ireland as his nudged kick was the magic England needed to slice open the Irish defense. Elliot Daly’s second try came from fast, clean hands, finished off by a smart ball from Mike Brown. However, during the entire championship, the consistency wasn’t there. Dylan Hartley’s overshot line-out throw in the 30th minute, coming off the back of a period of English pressure, showed the lack of composure from Jones’ men. England had poor discipline as 11 penalties were conceded in total by the hosts. The quality is there, England’s tries proved as that. England put up a tough fight, snatching a late score at the death against Ireland, but it wasn’t enough. After such bright beginnings under the Australian boss Jones, England have suffered defeats against Scotland, France, and Ireland confirming that something is amiss. However, England’s trouble came 12 months before next summer’s World Cup Japan leaving plenty of time to make changes.

“If you ask me what the fundamental reason is, having watched virtually every single England game, it’s that, at the moment, we’re not good enough,” explained Saracens’ millionaire owner Nigel Wray. “The number of club games hasn’t gone up, the number of international games has soared. The pressure’s only coming from one direction. I don’t think another two weeks, stuck in some hotel in the middle of nowhere, is going to do them any good at all personally, though obviously we need a better solution than we’ve got at the moment.” Meanwhile, Eddie Jones will not let England fear their World Cup group of death in Pool C. England will need to improve to emerge victorious from arguably the toughest 2019 World Cup pool when they bid for global glory in Japan.

World Cup 2019 Groups

Pool A: Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Europe 1, Play-Off winner
Pool B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Africa 1, Repechage winner
Pool C: England, France, Argentina, Americas 1, Oceania 2
Pool D: Australia, Wales, Georgia, Oceania 1, Americas 2

Buy all Rugby tickets for upcoming Autumn Internationals, Rugby 6 Nations, and World Cup 2019 now online @ www.LiveRugbyTickets.co.uk.

Rugby World Cup 2019 Japan tickets

Ireland v Scotland
Rugby World Cup 2019
22 Sep 2019 16:45
International Stadium Yokohama
Yokohama, Japan

Australia v Fiji
Rugby World Cup 2019
21 Sep 2019 13:45
Sapporo Dome
Sapporo, Japan

France v Argentina
Rugby World Cup 2019
21 Sep 2019 16:15
Tokyo Stadium
Tokyo, Japan

New Zealand v South Africa
Rugby World Cup 2019
21 Sep 2019 18:45
International Stadium Yokohama
Yokohama, Japan

England v Tonga
Rugby World Cup 2019
22 Sep 2019 19:15
Sapporo Dome
Sapporo, Japan

Wales v Georgia
Rugby World Cup 2019
23 Sep 2019 19:15
Toyota Stadium
Toyota, Japan

Fiji v Uruguay
Rugby World Cup 2019
25 Sep 2019 14:15
Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium
Kamaishi, Japan

England v USA
Rugby World Cup 2019
26 Sep 2019 19:45
Noevir Stadium Kobe
Kobe, Japan

Argentina v Tonga
Rugby World Cup 2019
28 Sep 2019 13:45
Hanazono Rugby Stadium
Higashiosaka, Japan

Japan v Ireland
Rugby World Cup 2019
28 Sep 2019 18:45
Shizuoka Stadium
Fukuroi, Japan

Georgia v Uruguay
Rugby World Cup 2019
29 Sep 2019 14:15
Kumagaya Rugby Ground
Kumagaya, Japan

Australia v Wales
Rugby World Cup 2019
29 Sep 2019 16:45
Tokyo Stadium
Tokyo, Japan

France v USA
Rugby World Cup 2019
2 Oct 2019 16:45
Level5 Stadium
Fukuoka, Japan

Georgia v Fiji
Rugby World Cup 2019
3 Oct 2019 14:15
Hanazono Rugby Stadium
Higashiosaka, Japan

South Africa v Italy
Rugby World Cup 2019
4 Oct 2019 18:45
Shizuoka Stadium
Fukuroi, Japan

Australia v Uruguay
Rugby World Cup 2019
5 Oct 2019 14:15
Ōita Bank Dome
Oita, Japan

England v Argentina
Rugby World Cup 2019
5 Oct 2019 17:00
Tokyo Stadium
Tokyo, Japan

France v Tonga
Rugby World Cup 2019
6 Oct 2019 16:45
Egao Kenkō Stadium
Kumamoto, Japan

Argentina v USA
Rugby World Cup 2019
9 Oct 2019 13:45
Kumagaya Rugby Ground
Kumagaya, Japan

Wales v Fiji
Rugby World Cup 2019
9 Oct 2019 18:45
Ōita Bank Dome
Oita, Japan

Australia v Georgia
Rugby World Cup 2019
11 Oct 2019 19:15
Shizuoka Stadium
Fukuroi, Japan

New Zealand v Italy
Rugby World Cup 2019
12 Oct 2019 13:45
Toyota Stadium
Toyota, Japan

England v France
Rugby World Cup 2019
12 Oct 2019 17:15
International Stadium Yokohama
Yokohama, Japan

USA v Tonga
Rugby World Cup 2019
13 Oct 2019 14:45
Hanazono Rugby Stadium
Higashiosaka, Japan

Wales v Uruguay
Rugby World Cup 2019
13 Oct 2019 17:15
Egao Kenkō Stadium
Kumamoto, Japan

Japan v Scotland
Rugby World Cup 2019
13 Oct 2019 19:45
International Stadium Yokohama
Yokohama, Japan

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