South Africa v England 2nd Test Betting: Poor discipline will cost England dear

Brad Shields
Brad Shields is expected to make his full debut
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Ralph Ellis looks at the problems facing Eddie Jones but says there's a simple way to put England's rugby team back on track...

"England go to the Free State Stadium in Bloemfointein this Saturday as [2.62] underdogs in the Match Odds and will have to make a drastic change in their discipline not to find themselves having lost the series with still one match to go."

Penalties. Give it a couple of weeks and we will probably all be obsessed with them. Who takes them, who has practised them, who scores them, who misses them.

But while Gareth Southgate's lot are still playing group games in Russia, there's another England team who ought to be focusing right now on penalties - Eddie Jones's rugby side in South Africa.

They don't, however, need to be worrying so much about who takes them and how. They need to focus on how they are going to stop giving so many away.

There were 12 in the first Test, when England contrived to throw away a 24-3 lead and end up losing 42-39 (No surprise that the three points which ended up separating the teams were down to a late penalty).

They go to the Free State Stadium in Bloemfointein this Saturday as [2.62] underdogs in the Match Odds and will have to make a drastic change in their discipline not to find themselves having lost the series with still one match to go.

Ill discipline is part of a trend

You would maybe not mind so much if what happened at Ellis Park was an isolated game, a reaction to being under pressure at altitude. But this is a trend that has been going on for too long.

Go back to the Six Nations where England's current run of five consecutive defeats began. There were 13 penalties conceded against Scotland, an astonishing 15 against France, and 11 to Ireland. That's a pattern of indiscipline and it's one that Jones has got to sort out.

England's 58-year-old Aussie coach is making the right noises. "It's always my problem and we have to change the behaviour of the players," he said during the post mortem on last Saturday's defeat. But then, tellingly, he added: "Sometimes that isn't so easy."

Captain Owen Farrell apparently called a team meeting earlier this week to confront the subject, and wing Jonny May confessed: "We should have realised by now the impact one penalty has on the momentum of a game, let alone back-to-back penalties."

That's fine, but it is the coach who sets the culture and it makes you wonder whether the abrasive style of Jones has bred the recklessness that is now costing England so dear.

Is Jones the Mourinho of rugby?

Jones, having signed a new contract in January when he was still being lauded for his long winning run, is suddenly under pressure. People are asking if he's the Jose Mourinho of rugby, brilliant when he first takes charge of a team but slowly losing respect among players for his domineering style.

One minute we were talking about challenging New Zealand as the best team in the world - now we're out to [7.6] behind both the All Blacks [2.38] and Ireland [6.6] in the betting for the Rugby World Cup.

Jones can't have helped morale by taking off Nick Isiekwe for tactical reasons after barely half an hour last week, and now it seems Brad Shields is likely to make his full debut even if Joe Launchbury is passed fit.

He also continues to ignore Danny Cipriani, wasting the most creative talent in his squad.

England did produce some great moments of attacking flair last week - not least the brilliant late try by May which almost rescued the result. But if they can't stay calm and disciplined in the phases of the game when they are under pressure, they will again find themselves paying the penalty.

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