England boss Eddie Jones determined to restore ‘rhythm and flow’ to Test rugby

Jones plans to convene a group of leading coaches, players and referees in the autumn with the aim of removing the repeated pauses in play

England head coach Eddie Jones smiles as he arrives for the captain's run at Coogee Oval in Sydney. AFP
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England head coach Eddie Jones is determined to bring an end to the continuous stoppages that are diminishing the appeal of the game in time for next year’s World Cup.

Jones plans to convene a group of leading coaches, players and referees in the autumn with the aim of removing the repeated pauses in play caused by overuse of the TMO, draconian policing of high tackles, pedantic officiating of the set-piece and drinks breaks.

Union’s declining ball-in-play time was highlighted when Queensland and New South Wales met in a high-octane series decider on Wednesday and Jones admits he has “had enough” of the delays that are harming the spectacle.

When asked if the growing number of stoppages was the biggest issue facing the sport, Jones replied: “Definitely. Definitely.

“We’ve got to keep the game safe, don’t get me wrong, but accidental head contact and this incessant use of the TMO, we’ve got to cut that out.

“We’ve got to get a better balance in the game. We’ve gone to trying to play everything absolutely right like it’s a tennis game.

“Every decision has to be right, but we need to get back to having a rhythm and a flow in the game.

“You watch that Origin game and there was a natural flow and rhythm in it. Rugby, when it’s played at its best and we have the laws at the right level, we get that natural flow and rhythm in the game. But we don’t have it at the moment.

“Every time we get a flow in the game, there’s a stoppage. We go back. Someone has taken out someone.

“We need to get everyone on the same page and start moving towards the game we really want. We’ve just gone too far down one road.

“We can’t blame the referees. The referees, coaches and players need to get together and say ‘this is the game we want’.”

Garry Ringrose of Ireland and Angus Ta’avao of New Zealand recover after colliding during the game at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 09, 2022 in Dunedin, New Zealand. Getty Images

Jones was speaking ahead of Saturday’s series decider against Australia with the first two Tests alone producing five yellow cards – two of them for deliberate knock-ons – and one red.

On the same day that England were compiling a 25-17 victory over the Wallabies, Ireland defeated New Zealand 23-12 in a chaotic Test in Dunedin that saw replacement prop Angus Ta’avao sent off for a dangerous tackle in a 15-minute spell in which his teammates Leicester Fainga’anuku and Ofa Tu’ungafasi were sin-binned.

“I’m certainly going to be pushing for this because I’ve had enough. I don’t want to see a New Zealand-Ireland game like that ever again, where we don’t even know how many people are supposed to be on the field,” Jones said.

“They get it wrong and they still don’t right it. That’s not the referees’ fault, it’s what they’re being pushed to do, so we have to get that right.

“Otherwise imagine the next World Cup … you play a quarter-final, you get a red card and two yellows, you’re down to 12 men and it’s just ridiculous.

“Line-outs can be tidied up, scrums can be tidied up and as long as the referees get the mandate to do it, they’ll do it. And coaches will go along with it. But it’s got to be clear and it’s got to be concise. Let’s get the game going.”

Jones hit back at Nic White after the veteran Australia scrum-half said he was surprised at the level of niggle coming from England during the first two Tests.

“I hardly think he’s entitled to make that comment. He’s the biggest niggler of all time, isn’t he?” Jones said.

“That does make me laugh – the boy who niggles everyone, complaining about niggle. That’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.”

England have made three changes for the decisive third Test at Sydney Cricket Ground, choosing Danny Care instead of Jack van Poortvliet at scrum-half and starting lock Ollie Chessum and flanker Lewis Ludlam in place of the injured Maro Itoje and Sam Underhill.

Updated: July 15, 2022, 3:32 AM