England to conduct 'brutally honest' Six Nations review but won't rush decision on Jones future

By Sports Desk March 23, 2021

England will conduct a "brutally honest" internal review of their Six Nations performance but will not rush the decision on the future of Eddie Jones.

The 2019 World Cup finalists finished fifth in this year's Six Nations tournament, losing all three games against Scotland, Wales and Ireland for the first time since 1976.

A spirited victory over France had restored some credibility to the side after a shock 11-6 home defeat to Scotland and a resounding 40-24 loss in Cardiff, but their campaign concluded last weekend with a 32-18 reverse in Dublin.

England conceded 121 points in their five games, more than in any previous Five or Six Nations championship, leaving Jones' position as head coach under serious scrutiny.

Bill Sweeney, CEO of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), accepted there was huge disappointment around their performance and that tough questions must be asked as they attempt to build a squad capable of winning the World Cup in two years' time.

However, he insisted on Tuesday that any possible changes to the team will be given great consideration.

Asked to summarise England's Six Nations campaign, Sweeney replied: "How long have you got?

"It's a tough question. We're all incredibly disappointed. England don't go into a Six Nations to come fifth, which is why we'll have a thorough debrief.

"We had a debrief scheduled for May and we'll probably bring it forward to April. It needs to be a thorough, brutally honest analysis of what went wrong and why.

"Since Japan, our focus is on going and winning a World Cup in France.

"You'd expect us to do an absolute and full debrief. You have to recognise and respect Eddie's achievements since he's been here: three Six Nations championships, a grand slam, a World Cup final - that's a tremendous performance.

"But he wants to understand this as much as anybody and we want to let him talk to us about what happened in the Six Nations and are we on track to where we want to get to in 2023.

"It's really important at this stage to apply good old English calm. We have to react, we won't do nothing, but it's important not to overreact. We won't leave any stone unturned in trying to understand it.

"It's a young squad, it was the youngest ever team in a World Cup final, and yet we're in a period of transition. It's unusual. When you're in transition, you want to make sure you're heading in the right direction.

"I don't think I can honestly answer [if he will be sacked]. He's as disappointed as we are, and we'll do this debriefing session together."

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    Billy Gilmour is a huge part of Scotland's future after his standout performance against rivals England at Euro 2020.

    Those were the words of Scotland boss Steve Clarke after his side impressively kept their last-16 qualification hopes alive with a 0-0 draw at Wembley on Friday.

    Chelsea prospect Gilmour, 20, was handed his first international start for the massive match, which ended in the first goalless draw between the two nations in 33 meetings at Wembley.

    Despite his inexperience, the composed Gilmour led Scotland for passes (44), completed passes (40) and passes in the opposition half (24), while he gained possession eight times, more than anyone else on the pitch.

    Gilmour got a huge reception from the Scotland fans when he was replaced by Stuart Armstrong in the closing stages, with Clarke thrilled by what he had seen.

    "It was nice for him to get that start, a big platform – he is a big player, Billy," said Clarke.

    "I've said for a long time he'll be a big part of the future of Scottish football.

    "We know what we've got in the camp, we'll try to manage that and keep a lid on things. Performances like that will do him no harm whatsoever.

    "Stephen O'Donnell was exceptional, and Billy was just behind him. 

    "Getting Kieran [Tierney] back into the three and having Scott [McTominay] there [in defence] gives us the platform to build from the back. Billy Gilmour and Callum McGregor [in midfield] are both good footballers. 

    "We knew coming here we couldn't just sit and defend for 95 minutes, we knew when we had the ball, we had to take care of it and try to create our own chances. 

    "That's what we managed to do."

     

    Scotland ended the match with more attempts (11-9) and shots on target (2-1) than England, though the hosts edged the xG battle (1.6-0.7), given John Stones had headed against the post early on.

    Having recovered well from their first loss to the Czech Republic, Scotland now face a must-win clash with Croatia at Hampden on Tuesday as Group D concludes.

    Scotland captain Andy Robertson also had praise for Gilmour as he looked ahead to that contest.

    "I'd put Gilmour's performance right up there," said the Liverpool defender.

    "Nothing phases him. I believe he can have as many caps as he wants for Scotland. He's got a big future, but the here and now's pretty good for him too.

    "I think we did deserve to win but we will take a point, it keeps us alive.

    "But it's important we use the feeling, the feeling, the fans being happy with us going into Tuesday and try to use it to get a positive result to get out of the group."

  • Kane is the best striker in the world – Shaw has no concerns over England team-mate's form Kane is the best striker in the world – Shaw has no concerns over England team-mate's form

    Luke Shaw has declared Harry Kane "the best striker in the world" and says his team-mate's goalless start to Euro 2020 is no concern to England.

    Kane fired a blank in England's 1-0 win over Croatia in last week's Group D opener and was again off the pace as the Three Lions were held 0-0 by Scotland on Friday.

    The Tottenham man managed just 19 touches before being substituted in the 74th minute – the fewest he has ever had in an England game when playing more than 45 minutes.

    The last time he had fewer touches for Spurs while playing for more than 45 minutes was against Manchester City in April 2018 (17 touches in 90 minutes).

     

    But despite Kane failing to register a shot on target in two successive games for club or country for the first time since November, Shaw insists the England skipper's pedigree cannot be questioned.

    "There's no concern at all. Personally, I think he's the best striker in the world," Shaw said of the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot winner and three-time Premier League top scorer.

    "He is a very important part of the team, in fact the most important part. I think whether he has not been at his best or not he is a massive part and a crucial player for us.

    "We need him whether his performances are as people expected or not, but this happens in tournament football.

    "You can score a goal at any moment and he is such a crucial player – not just on the pitch but off the pitch. He has got all of our backing and I'm not worried at all."

    England were frustrated by spirited rivals Scotland on Friday in the first goalless match between the sides at Wembley in 33 meetings.

    Gareth Southgate's men could have confirmed a place in the knockout stages with victory, but they now have work to do in their final group match against the Czech Republic.

    The Three Lions are behind the Czechs on goal difference ahead of Tuesday's match, meaning a win is required if they are to finish top.

    Following criticism on the back of the toothless display against Scotland, Shaw has put the stalemate into perspective with England as good as assured of a last-16 spot.

    "There is no denying that there is a lot of disappointment," he said.

    "We would have liked to win the game but you have to look at it in the way of another point in the right direction.

    "If it was the other way round, we drew with Croatia and won today, it would have been four points still so we have to keep positive.

    "I think there should always be expectation, the team we have, the talent is very strong. 

    "Of course we can take the expectation but maybe this result brought us back down to earth to make us realise it is not going to be easy."

     

    England, who have never made it beyond the semi-finals of the European Championships, are on course to meet either Portugal, France, Germany or Hungary in the next round.

    Taking positives from a 14th clean sheet in 18 matches for England in all competitions, Shaw added: "Our aim is to be here for seven games. 

    "We will sit down and watch the game back and analyse what we want to do better because there are things we could have done better as a team.

    "Maybe in this game we weren't at our best and that shows, but it is another clean sheet. 

    "We still have another big game on Tuesday and we have to forget about this one and be ready."

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    It was an underwhelming day for England as they could not seal their place in the next round of Euro 2020, though Sweden moved a step closer to at least ensuring they do not go home early.

    Nevertheless, Friday was not a day of great entertainment in the European Championship, with no team managing more than one goal among the three matches.

    Only one of the three goals on the day was not a penalty, as Ivan Perisic made history when sealing a point for Croatia.

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    England failed to make sure of their qualification for the knockout phase as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Scotland, only the fourth goalless game in 115 official fixtures between the old rivals.

    It was the first 0-0 draw between them since 1987, and the only one in 33 clashes at Wembley.

    Similarly, England had only ever slumped to one other goalless draw at the new Wembley, that stalemate as far back as October 2010 when Fabio Capello's side were held by Montenegro.

    Accentuating England's toothlessness was the fact Harry Kane managed only 19 touches of the ball, the fewest he has ever managed for the Three Lions in a game in which he has featured for more than 45 minutes.

    The last time he had fewer touches for Spurs while playing for more than 45 minutes was against Manchester city in April 2018 (17 touches in 90 minutes).

    Nevertheless, England can seal qualification with a point on Tuesday against the Czech Republic, and they can at least take solace in that this was their 14th clean sheet from their previous 18 matches, evidence that at least one area of the team is functioning properly.

     

    Croatia 1-1 Czech Republic: Schick nets again as Perisic makes history with equaliser

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    Schick is also the first player to score each of his team's first three goals of a European Championship tournament since Mario Gomez for Germany in 2012.

    But his spot-kick was cancelled out in the second half by Ivan Perisic, who made history in doing so.

    The Inter winger became the first Croatian to score at four major international tournaments (2014 and 2018 World Cups, Euro 2016 and Euro 2020).

    His powerful strike was his eighth in such tournaments, a figure that only Antoine Griezmann (10), Cristiano Ronaldo (10) and Romelu Lukaku (nine) can better among European players in the past four international events.

    He is now just one behind Davor Suker's all-time record of nine goals across World Cups and the European Championship for Croatia.

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    Sweden 1-0 Slovakia: Isak a ray of sunshine in turgid encounter

    St Petersburg was not treated to a classic as Sweden narrowly beat Slovakia at the Krestovsky Stadium, but Janne Andersson's men gave themselves a massive boost with respect to potentially reaching the knockout phase.

    Emil Forsberg's second-half penalty ultimately proved decisive and ended a run of 365 minutes without a Sweden goal in European Championship tournaments, their most recent goal coming in their Euro 2016 opener.

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    While it was by no means an exhilarating watch, Alexander Isak at least did his best to provide some entertainment.

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