However, the number of attempts does not lie. Of the six points they scored in that series, two came from Henry Arundell’s individual brilliance when the game was over, two from Mauls (thanks to Ellis Genge and Billy Vunipola) and one was a Smith interception.
That leaves Freddie Steward’s melee attack the only attempt England’s attack has built together over three games. This is the result of a Six Nations campaign in which England recorded just three tries against non-Italian opponents.
It should not be forgotten that a Wallabies attack lacking a small phalanx of backs created and executed more opportunities than England. Around this point in the last World Cup cycle, Jones hired Scott Wisemantel, who ignited England’s backline game.
Perhaps another Scott (Robertson) was spotted by chance in Coogee, near England’s training base, last week, although a bigger showing for the Kiwi Crusaders boss may be closer to home.
“Our attack isn’t my attack, it’s the strength of the players,” Jones said. “We have to find a way to develop players’ strengths and we have a different group of players.”
“You just have to build your game”
England now have nine full-fledged friendlies and four warm-up sessions to refine an attack that remains a work-in-progress of La Sagrada Familia proportions. “At this level you have to take your time, take a little chance of pulling the trigger and hoping there’s a seat,” Smith said. “Ultimately, all you have to do is build your game and the odds will come to you.”
This is the target ledger of a campaign that saw Jones and England finish in the credit. As jarring as the emphasis on jam tomorrow may be, the fast pursuit of Van Poortvliet – who will likely be battling Raffi Quirke for the England No9 shirt for the next decade – and Arundell – perhaps the culmination of Jones’ long-cherished fantasy of an England Nehe to find Milner-Skudder – seems inspired. Chessum and Freeman from the back row will also play a big part in England’s near- and long-term future.
“The group of young defenders who have no limits to how good they can be,” Jones said. “The only guys with testing experience are Farrell and (Jack) Nowell. All the other boys are straight out of diapers.”
And if there’s one element of the England tour that particularly excited Jones, it was the leadership. Handing over the captaincy from Owen Farrell to Courtney Lawes could have created an awkward dynamic. Instead, Jones seems to have found the best of both worlds.
“Courtney and Owen together were amazing,” Jones said. “Owen pushed the team to get better. With Courtney’s rather laconic style, they’ve created a great fit above. These young people look the older players in the eye and react to what the older players are doing.”
A fierce set piece, an aggressive defense and a tireless team spirit are three pillars Jones can build upon. But unless he can build a fourth pillar based on the assault on excellence, his World Cup project will remain structurally unsound.