England coach Eddie Jones believes his side are “moving in the right direction” despite suffering back-to-back Six Nations defeats to Scotland and France.
Hopes of a third successive title have been left in tatters over the past two matchdays and Saturday’s anticipated St Patrick’s Day decider at Twickenham will now only determine whether champions Ireland can complete the Grand Slam.
But Jones has cautioned against being overly critical of a team who had previously only lost one of 25 Tests under the Australian, who took over following England’s woeful 2015 Rugby World Cup showing.
“It’s interesting, in 2015 these players were no good, in 2016 they were terrific, in 2017 they were world beaters and now after two games they’re no good again. They’re good players and teams have ups and downs,” he told Sky Sports.
“I feel we’re moving in the right direction. Sometimes the results indicate it’s not moving in the right direction, but I think it is.
“I always thought we were going to go through a difficult period at some stage and we’re better off doing that now.
“We want a performance on Saturday that we’re all proud of. I’m not happy but I think we’re moving in the right direction, but sometimes results don’t go your way.”
— NatWest 6 Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 11, 2018
England were particularly criticised for their performance at the breakdown in both Edinburgh and Paris.
“It’s a difficult thing for the players,” he commented. “They’re giving it 100 per cent and the breakdown has changed a lot in the game in the last three or four weeks and we haven’t adapted well to that.
“There are a number of reasons for that, but the only reason that we can solve at the moment is our ability to be better at it, and to be better at it we need some technical skill and we need a greater intent of the players to be aggressive in that area.
“I don’t think [there’s a need to change personnel]. I think we’ve got the best players here.”
Jones revealed Elliot Daly would undergo a scan on an injured foot on Monday, while captain Dylan Hartley could return from a calf problem.
“We still don’t know [about Hartley],” added Jones. “We’ll find out more tomorrow. He’ll run a bit faster and then we’ll make a decision on whether he’s going to be available or not.
“He’ll more than likely come back into the team [if he’s fit], but we’ll have to make a selection call on that. It’ll depend on what the team needs.”
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