Summer Review: England

They may have lost a captivating series to South Africa but England return home with a spring in their step ahead of a crucial 2018-19 campaign.

They may have lost a captivating series to South Africa but England return home with a spring in their step ahead of a crucial 2018-19 campaign.

Victory in the final Test was their first since beating Wales in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations and will inject confidence in the squad, while they excelled in attack – scoring a combined 76 points in three matches.

The squad now enjoy a rest before the start of the domestic seasons, while the autumn internationals loom intriguingly on the horizon – including contests against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

There is no doubting England’s ability to win against anyone and, with a victory on the board, they can now regroup and push again next season as they aim to rediscover the form which carried them to successive Championship wins in 2016 and 2017.

Attacking prowess

Eddie Jones’ decision to mix things up has paid off handsomely, with new attack coach Scott Wisemantel making a major impact in a short space of time.

During the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations England failed to get more than 16 points in any of their last four matches, notching only 102 overall.

But against the Springboks, they were inventive, intense and assured – running in 76 against one of the most physical sides in the world.

The first Test will live long in the memory and Wisemantel will take pride in England’s first-half performance as Mike Brown, Elliot Daly and Owen Farrell crossed in quick-fire fashion.

The introduction of Danny Cipriani in the third Test also added to England’s creativity and eases the burden of regular fly-half George Ford.

But it is Jonny May who stole the show. His late try at Ellis Park will be feature in YouTube compilations for years and he was the only player to score a try in all three Tests.

Always a talented and dangerous winger, May looks to have added a cutting edge to his game and Jones will relish unleashing him against New Zealand in the autumn.

Back row solutions

The breakdown is an area Eddie Jones has been keen to master since taking over as head coach in 2015 and in Tom Curry he may have the openside flanker he desires.

The Sale Sharks ace took to high-class Test match rugby like a duck to water, disrupting South Africa at the breakdown and securing quick ball when required.

“I will do what is best for the team,” said Curry.

“Eddie is pretty clear about what he wants from a seven. I just try and fit into the seven role in the team structure.

“It worked out pretty well – I do what is best for the team, to make sure I have speed at the breakdown and link the play.

“And work as hard as possible. Seven has got to be the hardest working player on the pitch. I am just going round busting a gut.”

Add into the mix Brad Shields, who impressed in his debut series, and Jones has a wealth of options.

Positional versatility

In a NatWest 6 Nations squad, versatility is key and Jones has that in abundance.

Mike Brown, a regular at full-back, operated on the wing in this series and impressed with two tries while Elliot Daly slotted in well at No.15.

Owen Farrell continues to impress at fly-half for club and centre for country, while Shields adeptly covered both second row and flanker in the series.

“Playing on the wing has been great, a new challenge. Eddie met with me a few weeks before the tour and asked what I thought of the challenge of being a hybrid winger,” Brown said.

“I enjoyed getting involved and trying to get turnovers and tackling but I also enjoy counter-attack and high balls so it has been great for me.”