Eddie Jones insisted he can still reverse England’s fate in Australia after suffering a humiliating record loss to the 14-man Barbarians, adding to pressure on the head coach ahead of next month’s series against the Wallabies.
To make matters worse for the head coach, Jones faces a series of injury headaches and a potential No8 shirt crisis before he hires his tour team on Monday morning after the biggest loss of his term. England fell 52-21 against the invited side and the hosts endured the embarrassment of watching George Crowes criticize the switch through the post.
Jones lost Alex Dumbrandt to a knee injury on Friday, and although he will see a specialist on Monday, he is unlikely to be able to tour. On top of that, Sam Symonds has already been left out and Jones revealed that Billy Vunipola was fighting for a call-up only to suffer a concussion in Saturday’s Premier League final. George Ford is also likely to be ruled out after sustaining a knee injury in Leicester’s win on Saturday.
That means Jones will name a team with a number of top players missing, with Henry Slade, Manu Tulagy and Kyle Sinclair already sidelined in the three Test round starting in Perth on July 2. He also has calls to Ben Youngs and Joe Marler, but if they both drop out, Jones will be very inexperienced.
In addition, plans to travel in England were made due to the lack of flights available which meant the team had to travel in four different groups, meaning the full tour group won’t be together until Thursday. However, Jones tried to downplay the loss to the Barbarians, which followed a disappointing Six Nations loss to Ireland and France.
“We don’t go to Australia and hit 50 and shoot 22, but we have a style of play that we want to develop now and we will choose when to use it,” Jones said.
“We have some good young players, and there is potential for the team to improve. But I can’t influence the fans, I can only coach the team. We used it today for a purpose and if we played really well the result would have been great, but not necessarily great for us in the future because we weren’t going to find The things we need to find out.
“No one is happy with this, but we are looking at it again in light of what we are trying to do. There is a contextual situation here, we are trying to build a new team, playing differently, in a style that suits these players and there will be some ups and downs.
“It is a good reminder of how much work we have to do ahead of Australia. From that point of view I am very happy with what we did. I am not satisfied with our performance. I am happy with the intent of what we tried and it is a great preparation for Australia. But obviously I am not happy with the result” .
The Barbarians provided a squad full of impressive young Frenchmen while Damien Benaud, a more established member of Lys Bleus squad, he starred with two of his eight attempts on his part. Will Skelton became the first player in Barbarian history to be sent off just before the end of the first half, but while the team had a three-point lead at the time, Fabian Galthea’s side rebounded ahead of England in the second half – so much so that Crowes settled on his pre-retirement Swan song – it was Able to get three transformations and the result.
“It’s been a good week,” Kroes said. “I didn’t practice my kick, I trained on something else. It was a great week.”
Barbarians assistant coach Sean Edwards has revealed that Phil Bennett – the legendary half of flying and the man who launched the most memorable attempt in Barbarian history and who recently passed away – has been prominent in the team’s mind. “We have been watching clips of him all week and obviously the famous attempt has been played countless times. I have been fortunate enough to meet him on numerous occasions in Wales and the one thing that has always stood out is his humility for such a great player.”