Eddie Jones’ England now possess a host of star names capable of making any world best XV – that’s according to 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Jason Robinson.
The rugby league convert and former Sale Sharks star is convinced England’s sternest autumn Test awaits against Australia this weekend but on paper he believes Jones’ men have the star quality to hand and not the Wallabies.
Steve Hansen’s All Blacks side set a world-record 18-game unbeaten run before losing to Ireland on November 5, but Robinson – who scored 30 tries in 56 Test appearances and scored in England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup final victory over Australia – believes England are nearing the peak of their powers.
Robinson singled out Mako Vunipola, as well as former captain Chris Robshaw, injured starlet Maro Itoje, George Ford and Owen Farrell as World XV contenders.
Despite this glowing appraisal, and their own 13-game unbeaten run – 12 of which have been under Jones – Robinson is wary of the wounded Wallabies.
Australia were dismantled by England in June on home turf and whitewashed 3-0 in the Test series, but having had their egos dented, Robinson is sure Michael Cheika’s Wallabies will be singularly focussed on preventing England from matching their own best-ever 14-game winning streak, set while Robinson played under Woodward in 2003.
“When you look at New Zealand play, it doesn’t matter whether it is a forward or a back, they are able to use the ball and pass the ball. England is getting to that point,” said Robinson, who was speaking on behalf of Land Rover at the 2016 HITZ awards.
HITZ is the sport for change programme that uses rugby to help youngsters tackle some of life’s biggest challenges and helps them get back into education and employment.
“England at the moment are on course to do something very special. Across the board we have strength in depth.
“Mako’s scrummaging is strong and he is bringing more and more to his game which makes the team stronger and stronger.
“Robshaw has got better just by taking that number seven jersey off, Ford has come on very well, he is controlling everything that England do. Farrell is strong and in tight games he is Mr. Consistent.
“There’s lots of great signs now of a world-class team. I think there are lots of World XV contenders. Even when they play well, they keep saying they need to get better.
“Their biggest challenge lies this week against Australia. If I was an Australian player, having been beaten 3-0, whitewashed on home soil, this is the game I would want to win above any other game.
“As a player, your pride is dented, you know the stick they must have had during that period in Australia must have been phenomenal.
“Coming now to Twickenham, they want revenge. They want to put in a performance like they did in last year’s Rugby World Cup and completely annihilate England.”
Robinson highlighted England’s ever-increasing back-three options as evidence for England’s rapid rise.
“Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell have been injured, but Jonny May is pushing them and you’ve got Semesa Rokoduguni who comes in, scores two tries, gets man of the match and is dropped the following week,” Robinson explained.
“It just shows the transformation of the whole team, they have played some tough games, they have done things that we didn’t do in 2003.”
Elliot Daly, who was red-carded after five minutes in England’s 27-14 win over Argentina on Saturday, is another man to feature for England in the back three this Autumn.
And Robinson, perhaps England’s most revered attacking threat in recent history, backed the talented Wasps back to brush off his sending off and condemned the decision to hand him a three-week ban.
“I don’t think the red card will have any impact on him, it is one of those unfortunate incidents – there was no malice in it at all,” added Robinson, speaking at the annual HITZ awards, held in London, which is an opportunity for key national partners Land Rover, Barclays, Wooden Spoon and Comic Relief to reward youngsters for their commitment and achievements on the HITZ programme.
“A red card is for the Argentine player [Enrique Pieretto] who stood on someone with intent. For me it is almost like a sending off is sufficient for Daly.
“If you take somebody out in the air, it is Russian roulette now and the outcome is based on look as opposed to anything else.
“It is a difficult decision but the more consistent we can have the outcome, especially when there is no intent, the better.
“Otherwise you are taking away from the very nature of the game and that is what draws us to it.”
Jason Robinson is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover is a key partner of the HITZ programme, the sport for change programme that uses rugby to help young people overcome life’s challenges. Follow @LandRover_UK #WeDealInReal