Jonny May makes staggering Eddie Jones admission that could explain England’s attacking woes

Colin Newboult
Eddie Jones and Jonny May at an England training session.

Eddie Jones and Jonny May at an England training session.

Former England wing Jonny May has suggested that the attacking side of their game was very much an afterthought during Eddie Jones’ time in charge, and that it could well be the same under Steve Borthwick.

The 33-year-old made the surprising revelation while appearing on The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast after their Calcutta Cup defeat last Saturday.

While it was not a shock to hear that the Red Rose focused on set-piece and defence under Jones, it appeared as though very little actually went into what they did with ball in hand during phase play.

According to May, the former Wallabies head coach felt that if they got the basics right then the attack would naturally fall into place.

Physical dominance

“We didn’t particularly focus a lot on attack with Eddie. I’d expect attack isn’t the priority of Steve either,” the ex-Red Rose wing said.

“The fundamentals of Test match rugby and winning games is that defence has to come first, then set-piece and then breakdown.

“A lot of our stuff with Eddie was just about breakdown and the collisions, hitting the ball at pace. He was just onto the forwards constantly about hitting the ball at pace, being physical.

“Eddie would have been like, ‘if we get our defence right, we’ll create opportunities to score off creating turnovers. If our set-piece is good we’re going to get advantages to attack from and if our breakdown and our physicality is good, speed of ball in attack will happen.’”

The attack continues to be an issue for England under Borthwick and was the main reason for their defeat against Scotland in the Six Nations.

They struggled to hold onto the ball at Murrayfield and made a series of mistakes, with their passing and handling completely awry.

There was at least ambition from the Red Rose, which was in stark contrast to the head coach’s first year in charge, but they are still a long way off.

May insists that they will be looking to develop their attack under Richard Wigglesworth but that the defence will take priority, especially with the new system they are employing.

Defence over attack

“They do practice their attack. I can guarantee that Wiggy will obviously be fighting for attack time, but we’ve just brought in a new defence coach,” he said. “That will have been what they have been working on the most.

“Of course, every team goes into a game with your menu. So, ‘what are we doing from this lineout? These are our scrum options’, and then every team basically plays the same phase shape.

“They wouldn’t have as long as they would have wanted on their attack as yet because the foundations are still the foundations.

“Eddie and Steve are very similar and we’ve just brought in a new defence coach.”

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