Eddie Jones looks to Jonathan Joseph in Six Nations glory hunt as Ireland loom for England
Former Japan boss has a “pretty good idea” of his squad for crucial clash against Ireland in a fortnight
While Eddie Jones has a “pretty good idea” of his squad for a crucial Six Nations clash against Ireland in a fortnight, there is a pretty good chance Jonathan Joseph will be in his starting XV.
England, who flopped out of the World Cup as hosts last autumn, saw Joseph score three second-half tries on his second consecutive start as Jones’ men followed last week’s battling 15-9 win over Scotland at Murrayfield with a 40-9 dismantling of Italy in Rome.
Having escaped the injuries so dreaded against the usually physical Italians, England are now set for two weeks of intense focus on beating Ireland in a fortnight.
“We’ve had two games and two wins and no major injuries, so we’re sailing along pretty well at the moment,” said Jones, who became England’s first foreign head coach when he replaced Stuart Lancaster in the wake of their World Cup flop.
England have finished runners-up in the last four Six Nations and are set to welcome an Irish side bent on atoning for an opening draw with Wales and Saturday’s 10-9 defeat to France in Paris.
But Jones, sounding jovial and bullish after a much-improved second-half performance saw Bath’s Joseph score his maiden England hat-trick, says he has already seen enough to know the nucleus of his matchday squad.
“I’ve got a pretty good idea in my head at the moment,” said the Australian.
He added: “For each game we’ll have a particular gameplan and depending on who is suitable for that game will play.”
Jones ruffled a few feathers when he demanded England give Italy a good ‘smacking’ in Rome, but after resisting on their way to trailing 11-9 at half-time Italy finally caved in.
When an alert Joseph intercepted Leonardo Sarto’s misplaced pass to Michele Campagnaro in the 52nd minute, Italy’s heads began to drop.
“The turning point was the interception try. It changed the game for us from a mental point of view,” said Italy captain Sergio Parisse.
The speed and alertness of England’s replacements was soon felt, and error-stricken Italy were hastened to a chastening defeat when Joseph added another two and Owen Farrell one.
For Jones, who was manager of Australia when Jonny Wilkinson’s last-minute drop goal secured England the 2003 World Cup, it was all part of the plan.
“We weren’t expecting to score a lot of points in the first half, we were expecting to do that in the second half and that’s how it turned out,” he said.
“We could have easily scored 60 points out there.”
Italy’s only real complaint was the mid-air tackle dished out to Luke McLean by James Haskell, but Parisse said it could not excuse Italy’s deficiencies.
“When you concede 40 points and lose like this, you can’t start complaining about certain decisions made by the referee,” said Parisse, who missed a late drop goal that would have secured victory over France last week.
Jones, meanwhile, was quick to credit the 24-year-old Joseph, while taking the media to task for suggesting the Bath centre had previously fallen out of favour.
The Australian said it was “a lot of talk from you guys, not from me. Let’s get that right. He wasn’t under pressure for his spot. You guys had him under pressure.”
He added: “I thought he was very good. Last week, his defence was outstanding ... sometimes, in a 13’s job, you don’t get a lot of ball. Today he did, and he was sharp on his feet.”
Fly half Farrell, who finished with 17 points, said of Joseph: “He’s sharp ... he’s a classy rugby player at the same time. He doesn’t make many mistakes and makes a lot of good decisions.”
Joseph, who also played a full game against Scotland, played down suggestions had been trying to prove a point.
“I wouldn’t say so. It was more a case of just wanting to do my country proud, my family proud. I don’t take any game lightly, I want to prove myself every game and put in as much effort as I possibly can,” he said.
“I’m obviously very happy to get the hat-trick, but I’ll go back to the drawing board next week. There’s areas to my game that weren’t outstanding today and I have to make sure that’s top notch for two weeks’ time.”