Crunch decisions loom for under pressure Eddie
EDDIE Jones' right hand man for close to two decades, Glen Ella, believes England will ultimately benefit from their recent struggles, but must use the series against South Africa to settle on a backline formation ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup.
After losing just once in Jones' first two years in charge - a run that included a world record equalling 18 straight wins and back to back Six Nations crowns - England have come crashing back down to Earth.
Not only did they relinquish the Six Nations trophy, but they finished their season with three straight defeats, including a sobering loss to Grand Slam champions Ireland at Twickenham on St Patrick's Day.
For the first time in charge Jones came under fire from the British press and rugby public, with many - including former England playmaker Stuart Barnes - calling for his head.
Just as concerning as the defeats was the manner of their performances, with England struggling to get across the advantage line and score tries.
Jones will on Thursday announce his squad for June's three Test series against the Springboks, a tour that promises to be even more difficult considering a number of key players are set to miss the campaign.
Ella was Jones' backs coach during his tenure with the Wallabies and England's skills coach during the unbeaten tours of Australia (2016) and Argentina (2017).
And the former Wallaby believes there's a silver lining from England's recent struggles.
"I remember when I was with Eddie in 2003 and the All Blacks put 50 points on us in Sydney (before Australia gained revenge and made the World Cup final)," Ella told foxsports.com.au.
"You've got to take the knocks and work from that, and I know that Eddie will be working pretty hard to rectify those errors that they incurred during the Six Nations.
"Again, they'll probably be going with a second string team to South Africa but that's good because you need depth of numbers, so you might be able to expose a couple of good players that can potentially go to the World Cup."
One of the criticisms levelled at Jones over the last year has been his reluctance to give opportunities to young players.
The decision to persevere with captain Dylan Hartley at hooker over Lions rake Jamie George, as well as veteran Mike Brown at fullback, have been hotly debated.
Jones also came under fire for breaking up the George Ford and Owen Farrell playmaking axis for that most recent Test loss to Ireland.
Ella said Jones had to settle on his preferred 10-12 combination by the end of the June series.
"They've (Ford and Farrell) served England well," Ella said.
"Obviously the last couple of games it hasn't been so successful, but that's a decision Eddie will have to make leading into the World Cup.
"Whether he plays Farrell at 10 and puts another ballplayer or heavier player at 12, or does he persist with Ford and Farrell?
"That's a decision he'll have to make on this tour of South Africa.
"But they're great players, they know each other inside out and once they get their confidence back they could tear any country apart.
"It's up to England to take the game to them and dominate South Africa.
"They're the decisions in the back of Eddie's head going to South Africa.
"Do we give it one more go, a chance to prove themselves and get their confidence up to lead England to the next World Cup?"
Jones told the BBC on Tuesday that he would again use a specialist backs coach for the tour of South Africa and had settled on who that would be.
But Ella said he hadn't yet been contacted by Jones and discarded Springboks coach Allister Coetzee could emerge as a candidate for the role.
Jones and Coetzee were assistants to Jake White for South Africa's 2007 World Cup win.
Ella added that the expected returns of No 8 Billy Vunipola and halfback Ben Youngs would help England's cause as they attempt to get back to winning ways.
"Youngs is an integral part of the team," Ella said.
"He's the link between the backs and the forwards and he's a good talker.
"He's a strategic kicker and when he gets the chance he can run.
"He's another one of those guys that puts England on the front foot as well, so Eddie will be looking to put him straight back in the system."