Time is running out for Eddie Jones and England - Neil Back

Saturday, November 24th, 2018 9:25am

By James Gray @jamestingray

Neil Back has warned England that the clock is ticking ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup and Eddie Jones still does not know what his best team is.

Jones has named a side featuring nine changes to the team that stuttered to a victory over Japan last Saturday.

Injuries to Chris Ashton and Jack Nowell have given Joe Cokanasiga the chance to win just his second cap and force his way into the reckon for next autumn’s tournament in Japan.

But World Cup-winning flanker believes there are places to be won all over the pitch and Jones must start to settle on his favourite combinations soon.

“We’ve definitely got the quality across the team,” Back told The Brian Moore Show (weekdays 3pm-7pm).

“But I think back to a year out from the World Cup back in 2003, any sort of reputable pundit with any knowledge of rugby union, thinking about the England team would have been able to name the starting XV - perhaps from a group of only 18 or 19 players.

“Whereas today, there would be huge debate as to who should be in that starting XV. We’re sort of running out of time.

“Both Australia and England have had indifferent seasons and they will want to finish with a bang and a big performance because it’s a long time until they’ll be together again and play together. 

“Particularly England, should the worst happen and Australia get one over on us - although I don’t expect they will given the dominance we’ve had over the last 18 months - but our next opponents are Ireland. 

“If we go away from this weekend with a win and a good performance, we’ll be really confident. 

“But if we lose, it’s going to be tough facing Ireland and then a France team that can turn up on the day the following week.”

On the other side of the ball, Australia have had a poor year with just four wins in 12 internationals and are desperate to finish 2018 on a high.

The Wallabies have lost their last five matches against England and have not won an autumn international at Twickenham in six years - but former captain James Horwill is quietly confident that the the timing of this clash is in their favour.

"Previously when you came on these tours, it was the end of a long year and you always used to look at this last match as one you could throw everything at," Horwill told The Brian Moore Show.

"You knew you had six to eight weeks until you were required to do anything again following this weekend.

"When you’ve got that in your mind, you can throw caution to the wind and leave nothing in the tank.

"You can physically empty yourself for the team rather than thinking ‘I just want to get home and get on the beach, go back to summer and get out of this cold English weather’.

"I think the boys will be having a mindset of ‘let’s just give it one last time’ because for these guys the next time the Test team will be together will be June, July next year. That’s a long time to sit and think about what ifs or stew over not a good performance or a loss."

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