By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) - England coach Eddie Jones called an unexpected news conference on Tuesday but anyone hoping to hear that perhaps he had worked out why his team were so poor against Scotland last Saturday will be disappointed and wondering why he bothered.
England were well beaten by the Scots in the opening game of their Six Nations defence, an all-round pummelling that the 11-6 scoreline barely reflected.
The subsequent media post-mortem focussed on flyhalf Owen Farrell's tendency to kick away the little possession he got, a tactic highlighted by the fact that inside centre Ollie Lawrence did not touch the ball until more than an hour had passed.
After the match on Saturday Jones had dismissed the issue, saying that the backs were almost an irrelevance in a game where Scotland dominated possession, but newspaper graphics showing how Farrell had continually ignored the speedy men outside him when he did have the ball seemingly countered that argument.
Asked on Tuesday whether the tactic was the choice of his flyhalf and captain or whether Farrell was just following orders, Jones was at his most dismissive.
"Once we get on the field the players make all the decisions, that's always been the case, but the responsibility to prepare them for the game is the head coach and therefore I didn't give them the right information," he said.
"There are five million situations in a game and we don’t coach five million situations. We’re just disappointed we didn’t improve from the French game but now we're looking ahead to Italy."
On Saturday Jones said it was "just one of those days" and if his extensive analysis has since found a more forensic explanation for his team's struggles, he wasn't about the share it.
"We just felt that we held back a little bit and we weren't our usual vibrant selves," he said. "We're really making sure that we focus on ourselves this week and get playing the sort of rugby we'd like to play, which is getting on the front foot and keeping the opposition on the back foot."
That opposition, probably fortuitously, is a youthful Italy, who have not won a Six Nations game for six years and who were utterly outclassed by France in Rome on Saturday.
England will almost certainly win and score plenty of tries but the millions watching on TV will no doubt reserve judgement for tougher tests further down the line.
Jones will be boosted by the return of both his first-choice props as Kyle Sinckler, who was suspended last week, and Mako Vunipola, have rejoined the squad.
"They're both exceptional players," said Jones. "Mako is the elder statesman of the side while Kyle was dynamic for us during the autumn and it's good to have them back."
Jones will name his team for the Twickenham clash on Thursday.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis)