Elliot Daly at the top of the class in England’s half-term report

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Reuse this content Autumn internationals Topics A ninth victory of the year, seven more tries and one or two World Cup prospects now burnished in the heat of international battle, yet a nagging feeling remains that as autumn turns to winter, we are in the dark as to whether England have made strides or small steps this November – the absent All Blacks still cast a shadow over Twickenham.Quantifying the success of an autumn campaign was comfortably rounded off against Samoa on Saturday is no easy task. As Eddie Jones, who on Sunday night was named World Rugby’s coach of the year, said: “We’re not involved in the science … I could make up percentages which I’ve done before … Generally, we are moving in a positive direction and that’s the only thing I can say.”Jones was also asked to give himself a half-term report, considering he is now two years into his four-year project, and his answer was equally opaque: “Doing the basics well but needs to keep improving.” But without a visit from the All Blacks, perhaps the best gauge of England’s autumn is to measure it against Jones’s stated aims. He wants England to be uncomfortable between now and the World Cup and he wants to increase his squad depth – the ideal scenario being three players in each position he implicitly trusts. Certainly, Samoa’s back row, led by the excellent TJ Ioane, made for some uncomfortable moments while, after lighting up Twickenham with two second-half tries, Elliot Daly has perhaps emerged as England’s star of the autumn and appears destined to stay on the wing. “Eddie gave me great confidence when I first went there against Fiji [last November],” said Daly. “He just said: ‘Play as a centre and defend on the wing.’ That is exactly what I do.”Sam Underhill aside however, no one has forced their way into Jones’s first-choice XV, even if Sam Simmonds – who made a fine first start on Saturday – and the ever-improving Charlie Ewels, among the try-scorers against Samoa, have added to the talent pool. Indeed, it is only tighthead prop where Jones expressed some concern – and even that felt like a public kick up the backside for Kyle Sinckler.“[We stop building depth] when we play the first game of the World Cup,” added Jones. “You have got to remember, everything we do is geared towards the first game of the World Cup. My job is selection and that’s all I do. All the coaching is done by the players and the other coaches. If I’m not down that [selection] road then the RFU should sack me.”There are however, a number of things Jones would have liked to see this autumn but did not. Henry Slade was markedly improved in the No13 jersey against Samoa but he did not seize the opportunity to demand selection in a way that his talent permits. In addition, England still seem to lack direction when Billy Vunipola is absent and we have not yet seen Jones employ a battering ram in the centres for any sustained length of time. For that very reason, Manu Tuilagi remains in the long-term picture: “All I can remember is him playing at his best against New Zealand [in 2012]. If he is capable of doing that consistently then there’s a chance of being in our squad.”Furthermore, the Six Nations – a competition Jones is desperate to win for a record third time in a row – will pose far tougher questions, as he acknowledges, “it is going to be harder than any of the Six Nations we’ve played in previously”. And while he was not interested in discussing Scotland’s emergence this autumn, Ben Youngs was more willing to do so.“I saw the Scotland result [against Australia] and they pushed the All Blacks last week,” Youngs said. “It is unbelievably competitive. We want to win the title. We want to be a better team than we are now because there is not an area in our game that is outstanding. We know that what we’ve done over the last three weeks won’t be good enough to compete for the title.” Share on WhatsApp Eddie Jones Since you’re here… Samoa rugby union team England’s cause will, of course, be aided by the return of Billy Vunipola, Jack Nowell and Ben Te’o from injury, while Owen Farrell and the other rested British & Irish Lions should also be firing on all cylinders. And regardless of Jones’s relationship with statistics, one that needs no embellishment is that England have now won 22 of their 23 Tests in his tenure. He bristled at the criticism that came his side’s way for the stodgy nature of their victory over Argentina but the ruthlessness with which Australia were killed off was undeniably impressive.The triumph over Samoa was at times both slick and sloppy but further evidence that England’s winning habit is deeply ingrained, and they consistently perform with an intensity that is now a prerequisite. “The only reason I came to England was because I got offered to coach a team I thought could be bloody good,” added Jones. “I think we’re good, we’re not bloody good at the moment but that’s what we’re going to become.”England Brown; May (Rokoduguni, 47), Slade, Lozowski(Francis, 57), Daly; Ford (co-capt), Care (Youngs, 57); Genge (Marler, 46), George (Hartley, 64), Cole (Williams, 57), Launchbury (Lawes, 31), Ewels (Isiekwe, 64), Itoje, Robshaw (co-capt), Simmonds.Tries Brown, Lozowski, Ewels, Daly 2, Slade, Rokoduguni. Cons Ford 5. Pen Ford.Samoa Tuala; Perez, Fonotia, Leiua (Lee-Lo, 68), Lemi (Taulagi, 71); Nanai-Williams, Polataivao (Matavao, 75); Jordan Lay (James Lay, 57), Matu’u (Leiataua, 31), Brighouse (Sasagi, 47), Tyrell (Lemalu, 62), Vui (capt), Fa’asalele, Ioane, Lam (Treviranus, 68). Sin-bin Fa’asalele 69.Tries Fa’asalele, Vui. Cons Nanai-Williams 2.Referee Andrew Brace (Ire). Attendance 81,911. news Share via Email Share on Twitter Read more Share on LinkedIn Rugby union Eddie Jones a happy man as Jamie George keeps Dylan Hartley on his toes Share on Messenger Share on Facebooklast_img read more