Any fans hoping new England coach Eddie Jones might introduce some Wallaby flair to the Six Nations are likely to be disappointed after the Australian said the tournament would be decided first and foremost by the set-piece.
Jones is about to get his first taste of the competition in the sport’s most traditional fixture of all, when his England side take on Scotland in Edinburgh on the opening day on February 6.
“I’ve never seen so much media,” he said at the tournament launch in London on Wednesday.
“As a kid I grew up watching the Six Nations on TV, memories of JPR (Williams), Phil Bennett and those great players. This tournament is full of tradition, the emotion and the rivalries are immense, so it’s a great honour to be a part of it.
“The Six Nations is about the contest – at the set-piece, and breakdown – that’s the reality. It’s never known for its continuity, until last day last year that is.”
That crazy finale last season produced an astonishing 27 tries and 221 points in three games, as Ireland snatched the title on points difference. It meant four successive second-place finishes for England, who have been champions only once since 2003.
England’s dazzling backs turned on the style in their seven-try 55-35 final-day victory over France, but they were unable to reproduce that form in the World Cup when, even more worryingly, their scrum and lineout fell apart.
Hoping to change that quickly was one of the reasons Jones appointed combative hooker Dylan Hartley to be his captain and the bad boy-turned-leader is ready to repay that faith.
“Eddie wants a dominant set-piece and that starts at scrum time,” said Hartley, who was already sounding fed up with repeated questions about his discipline after racking up over a year in bans for a succession of offences.
“We’ve also got (former England captain) Steve Borthwick running the lineout and, Jeez, his standards are pretty high, so we want to be a force up front.”
Jones agreed. “We have a lot of work to do in that area but with the talent we have I think we can restore that fear factor of England being dominant in the set piece,” he said.
Jones said his initial time with the squad had been something of a “getting to know you” session. He had no illusions about the road ahead.
“The first couple of days is like a honeymoon but a honeymoon’s not like real life,” he said.
“When I stand up in front of the team for the first time everyone’s sitting there nodding, saying ‘yes’ – of course they are – but I know that’s not the real situation.
“We are going to have our differences, the team are going to have differences, but we’ll work that out and find a way to make this team successful.”