English rugby is flying high at the moment after a decisive Six Nations triumph, and recently the Red Roses may have gotten their most interesting praise yet – from former fly-half Michael Lynagh, of all people. Lynagh, who of course starred for the Australian national team, was quoted here essentially warning the current Australian squad not to take England lightly during an unprecedented three-Test tour this summer.
Though he acknowledged that there’s an unpredictable element to the three contests this summer due to the fact that many of the English players will be dealing with domestic obligations, Lynagh argued that this is an English team perfectly capable of pulling off the sweep. Specifically, he praised Eddie Jones’s handling of the team since he took over in November, and noted that Jones appears to have restored a healthy sense of arrogance to the team. That wouldn’t always be a good thing for a sports team, but for a franchise with as much history as English rugby it almost certainly is. And perhaps it’s something Jones has tapped into intentionally from the beginning.
This site commonly posts previews of major international sporting events, and early in the Six Nations progress a look at the England vs. France match-up put forth an interesting reminder: that Jones had promised not just winning ways or immediate success when he took over the team, but a unique style of play. Those who have tuned in during the time since would probably say he’s done just that, but the idea that Lynagh proposed, that Jones has unlocked the inherent competitive arrogance of English rugby, goes hand-in-hand with cultivating a new style. And given that the team already had sufficient talent to compete with and defeat the best teams in the world, that arrogance could be the deadliest weapon Jones is capable of using.
Whether or not it can help make the difference in three summer contests with Australia remains to be seen, but at this early stage it’s reasonable to take Lynagh’s suggestion seriously. And for his part, Jones is more than on board with the idea. In addition to predicting a 3-0 sweep himself, Jones has stated that his goal is for England to be the No.1 ranked rugby team in the world by the time the 2019 World Cup rolls around. That would mean passing South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, and seems at this point to be a lofty goal.
But if a sense of arrogance is at least in part behind England’s strong play of late, it makes perfect sense for Jones to personify it in his own goals for the team. We’ll find out this summer if a 3-0 stretch against Australia is in the cards, but it’s not feeling like an unrealistic idea at this stage.