England equal wins record: How they have improved under Eddie Jones

England celebrate
England are only the third Tier One nation to have enjoyed a perfect year having played 10 or more games

England saw off Australia on Saturday by recording their highest score over the Wallabies at Twickenham. It was a victory which completed a perfect year and equalled their record of 14 successive wins.

Head coach Eddie Jones said afterwards that his team would be happy to play New Zealand "tomorrow".

I understand why Jones is saying that and, as long as his team are winning and putting in good performances, he can keep on saying it because they're not playing the All Blacks for a while!

England would have every chance against the All Blacks if they were playing them tomorrow, because it's the end of New Zealand's season and England are relatively fresh. But it would still be a sensational win were it to happen.

What we have learned this year during England's unbeaten run is they've improved in a number of areas, but they still need to develop if they are to become the world's best.

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England would play All Blacks tomorrow - Eddie Jones

Confident and straight-talking - England are mentally tougher

I'm convinced winning in the manner they did against Australia has helped England mentally.

Had they lost, the expectations most people had of that team would have been tainted because a) they would have lost at home to the Wallabies, and b) they would have failed to equal the record.

England were under immense pressure against Australia at the start. Yes, on another day they might have conceded three tries in that opening period, but they didn't and were able to come back and kick on.

They regrouped, sorted themselves out at half-time and took Australia to the cleaners.

Nathan Hughes and Joe Marler tackel David Pocock
This is the ninth time England have recorded a perfect year

It's a good sign they were able to withstand that incredible pressure without being wholly dynamic and intense. It was far from England's best performance, which is encouraging because there's more to come.

That mental toughness comes from their run of victories this year, but it is also a consequence of the way Jones treats the squad.

He's straightforward and leaves no room for uncertainty. Jones' approach is: "If you're not going to play well, I'm dropping you. I'm not going to give a huge explanation as to why - you should know why, and if you disagree with that you're not the person I thought you were."

The straight-talking, honest, black-and-white conversations Jones has with his squad have made them tougher.

Stronger, tougher, longer - Jones' men fitter than before

There has been a big improvement in the squad's fitness. A year ago Jones noticed their levels were poor and, while there are still improvements to be made, England showed in the second half against Australia that their energy levels are high.

Some of that is a consequence of them being mentally tougher, but it is also because the squad, as individuals, are adding to the work they do with their clubs, improving anaerobic ability to compete in matches for longer.

Ben Youngs
Ben Youngs' decision-making has become better as a result of his improved fitness

Second row George Kruis, for example, is very tall and very heavy, but when he makes a tackle he quickly gets back on his feet and is ready to make another one - to make a difference again. The players can reload and bounce - hit the ground and get up - within a blink of an eye.

Number eight Billy Vunipola is being pushed that extra mile by Jones and that has made him even fitter.

And scrum-half Ben Youngs, man of the match against Australia, is another whose fitness is much better, and he has become a better player as a result. He can get to rucks quicker, which gives him more time to make a decision, and that gives the next person receiving more time to operate.

Youngs used to be very inconsistent. He would never play brilliantly for six or seven games in a row, and at the beginning of Jones' tenure it was a flip of a coin between him and Danny Care. Now Youngs owns that position.

His concentration is better because he's fitter and, again, that enables him to make better decisions. The fitter you are the stronger you are. The longer you can last, the longer you can perform at your best.

The stats you need to know
England have used 49 different players in their winning run of 14 games, 12 of whom have made only one appearance in that run
Four different players have appeared in all 14 wins for England: Danny Care, Dan Cole, George Ford, Jonathan Joseph
England have used 44 different players in 2016

The emergence of players of world-class potential

A consequence of the improved fitness is not only the emergence of world-class players, but also the emergence of players who have the potential to become world class.

Before Jones took over there were few arguable cases for England players to be picked in a world XV, but in 2016 England had Owen Farrell, Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje on the six-man shortlist for World Rugby's men's player of the year.

I can't remember the last time there were three England players on that list.

Maro Itoje
Itoje, the European player of the year, was ruled out of the autumn internationals with a fractured hand

Alongside those three, players like Kruis and Anthony Watson have impressed and oldies like James Haskell and Chris Robshaw, who are 31 and 30 respectively. have been putting in performances that belie their age.

The emergence of Itoje has not been any more important than the emergence of the other players. Let's be clear - no one player is more important than another in becoming world class.

But what's great about Itoje is that, at 22, he's so young. For someone who is becoming world class, or arguably is world class already, his tender age means, barring injury, he could win 100 caps. The same could be said about Watson, 22, and Billy Vunipola, 24.

It's a young squad. There's quite some way to go to be the number one team in the world because a lot of the squad are not yet the number one players in the world.

Impact from the bench - England have strength in depth

Every team is now realising how important those eight guys on the replacements' bench are.

Many of those who have come on for England this year have made a difference, be it in defence or attack, scoring tries or saving tries, and each of them are challenging for a first-team place, rather than simply being numbers 16 to 23.

Courtney Lawes
England were beset by injuries to key players this autumn, with Itoje, Kruis, Haskell, Watson and Jack Nowell among those ruled out

England had to deal with a number of injuries this autumn and there were questions over whether those who were picked to replace them could step up.

But the likes of second row Courtney Lawes has had an unbelievable autumn, while Tom Wood has emerged pretty much from obscurity because of the number of injuries - and boy, has he taken his chance at flanker.

We have also seen Elliot Daly come through. Admittedly, he was sent off against Argentina but, for me, that's not a career-ending decision. It was a mistimed tackle, a blip, and he will go on to have a long and successful career.

At the moment, you could put any of Jones' replacements in the starting XV and they wouldn't weaken the team. That is an indication of the impact they've made this year.

Room for improvement in defence and attack

England's defence needs tightening up. During the autumn, their defence has been questionable and I say this because South Africa, who are a poor side right now, came back and scored a couple of tries at the end of the game.

Fiji aren't a good side and they scored three tries in a period before and after half-time, and Australia, who are a good side, scored their opening try far too easily.

Paul Gustard has come into the coaching team as defence coach and England also recruited Melbourne Storm rugby league defence coach Jason Ryles to prepare them for the autumn Tests, so it's something they're working incredibly hard on.

England's longest winning runs

But on occasions this autumn, it was too easy for teams to score against England and, if your ambition is to be the best team in the world, it should not be that easy to score against you.

Their concentration levels have to be better. They have to be switched on and in sync, with everyone thinking the same way. There were times when England were too narrow, which means they need to communicate louder and clearer.

These are small details that can be fixed, and will be fixed.

I am convinced England will become a better, stronger defensive unit. Again, it illustrates how much they have to do to become the number one side in the world.

In attack, England haven't been sensational but neither have they been flat. Overall, their attack is improving but it's a huge area they need to work on, particularly because of the excellence of Ireland and New Zealand in pinging the ball from wing to wing incredibly quickly.

Ireland played with more energy and more concentration than England against better opposition this autumn.

Stretching defences, creating space to attack, has to be England's goal.

Longest winning runs by Tier One nations
18: New Zealand (15 August, 2015 - 22 October, 2016)
17: New Zealand (18 September, 1965 - 14 June, 1969)
17: South Africa (23 August, 1997 - 28 November, 1998)
17: New Zealand (8 June, 2013 - 21 June, 2014)
16: New Zealand (9 September, 2011 - 6 October, 2012)

My Lions team of the autumn

Attention will now inevitably turn to next year's Lions tour of New Zealand. This would be my team, based purely on those who played for the home nations during the autumn internationals, if the team took the field tomorrow.

Jeremy Guscott's Lions XV

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