Well done Eddie Jones and England. It is really pleasing for me to actually say that.
At the final whistle in Sydney, you could see how much a series win in Australia meant to the team, and I have to give credit to Jones for fixing the huge mistake he made by starting Danny Care.
I take my hat off to Jones for that, because it was a big, bold call. As England coach I never substituted a player before half-time, but the decision to replace Care at scrum-half was the right one.
Eddie Jones deserves credit for rectifying a mistake he made during the clash against Australia
In the build-up to the third Test, I made it clear I could not understand why Jack van Poortvliet had been dropped to the bench after such an impressive display the previous week.
It was a massive error. Care had a really poor half an hour, but Jones realised he had made a mistake and rectified it quickly. It takes guts to do that and his move paid off. Van Poortvliet made a huge difference when he came on.
Van Poortvliet is the find of the tour. He is an excellent player, and outstandingly calm for such a young man. The Leicester scrum-half might only be 21, but he immediately made England look more organised when he appeared off the bench. His composure and speed at the breakdown were impressive.
I feel sorry for Danny. It is tough on any player when they are hooked out of the game so early and not for an injury or tactical reasons.
But in Test rugby there can be no room for sentiment. I’ll repeat – it was the right call to replace him.
With Van Poortvliet on the field, England were much better, and to have won a series in Australia is huge for the team after a poor Six Nations. At international level it is about winning. Only on the back of victories can you move forward with confidence. England will now be able to go into a huge season with more belief than they started this trip with.
England were much better when Jack van Poortvliet (pictured) came on to replace Danny Care
Van Poortvliet is one of a number of promising young players who will learn from the series.
I wish we’d seen more of Henry Arundell, but I was pleased to see Tommy Freeman more involved in the third Test. His running lines are a real point of difference and at times he looked dangerous.
While the next generation showed promise, it was the old guard who guided England home.
Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes both had huge tours. Genge is world class. The way he powered through Samu Kerevi on Saturday and did the same to Michael Hooper in the second Test was hugely impressive. Both were huge moments.
Owen Farrell also excelled. I thought he was excellent in Sydney up against the giant Kerevi, who had a brilliant game. Kerevi is a fearsome opponent, but Farrell matched him and never took a backward step.
England earned a heroic series victory over Australia after winning the decisive Test in Sydney
The next stage of England’s development is to move away from constant talk of physical dominance. You need more than that to beat the best teams and win a World Cup.
England beat up Australia to win the second Test and ahead of the third they talked about doing the same thing.
It is obvious to say you need to be physical to win matches – that has been taken as a given since international rugby began. But Jones cannot become obsessed with that facet of the game. Being physical should be like having a strong scrum and efficient line-out. They should be givens.
What is not a given is the ability to play with skill and pace. We did see more of that from England in Sydney, which is encouraging. Freeman was lively. So, too, was Jack Nowell. Freddie Steward was excellent and scored a good try.
Owen Farrell excelled against the giant Samu Kerevi, who had a brilliant game on Saturday
I’m sure Marcus Smith won’t be happy with the way he looked to get his back division going on this tour. But his opportunistic try was a crucial moment and he sent Ollie Chessum through a gap with one lovely, delayed pass. England will want to see more of that.
Jones and his players will go into a World Cup season with confidence. No series win in the southern hemisphere should be downplayed.
England still have work to do and they will have to improve. What is clear is the Six Nations is now the ideal preparation for any World Cup success, not touring the southern hemisphere. That has never been the case previously, but now it is.
With the exception of Italy, every Six Nations game allows for a real opportunity to prove your World Cup credentials. The southern hemisphere nations will be worried and certainly should be.
FARRELL’S COACHING MASTERCLASS
Sean Fitzpatrick summed it up perfectly in the TV studio after Ireland’s stunning series win in New Zealand which is just a brilliant achievement.
Fitzpatrick admitted the All Blacks had been outcoached by Ireland, and he was spot on. Andy Farrell had Ian Foster’s number.
The men in green were better in all facets than those wearing black. It is not often you hear former All Blacks such as Fitzpatrick admit their team were not only outplayed, but outsmarted.
Ireland’s coaching team were lightyears ahead of their opposition. That spells big trouble for Foster as New Zealand head coach, with Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland kicking their heels in the background.
Andy Farrell called his Ireland team a special group following the victory over New Zealand
The All Blacks were as poor as I’ve seen them in Wellington, but that should not detract from Ireland’s triumph in winning a series in New Zealand’s backyard. Farrell has done an amazing job with them and it was noticeable how, in between their raucous celebrations, the Irish players spoke so highly of him.
The way Ireland played in New Zealand was physical, but also had a real attacking threat. They played with pace, and Robbie Henshaw’s try was as good as you’ll see at the highest level.
Victory in New Zealand also sent Ireland to No1 in rankings, which will give them confidence going into next year’s Six Nations and World Cup.
Like France, Ireland are now leading contenders for both competitions and much of that is down to the way Farrell has got his team operating on and off the pitch.