As England pick over the carcass of their failed Six Nations defence, Eddie Jones has been served up an easy scapegoat in Pascal Gauzere but there is also unpalatable gristle to stomach closer to home – not least his side’s fading finishing power.
In their two meaningful matches in this season’s Six Nations England have yet to register a single point in the final quarter. For a team which prides itself on the destructive impact of their bench that statistic should make for alarming reading.
Not so long ago the England coach was making a song and dance about how his finishers, as he referred to them, were changing the sport.
Now the question is whether England’s finishers are finished.
England were in striking distance after an hour against Scotland, when they were five points down, and Wales, when they were level, but drew a blank thereafter and were beaten in both matches.
Even in the gimme game against Italy, England only won the last quarter 9-7.
So much for the stormtroopers coming from the sidelines to alter the course of the game – the impact from the England bench has been negligible bordering on negative.
If the theme of the Principality Stadium party was conceding penalties, Charlie Ewels, Ellis Genge and Dan Robson all received their invitations while Robson also threw the interception pass from which Wales substitute Cory Hill eventually battered his way over the line.
The contrast with the impact Wales’s subs made in Cardiff could not have been more vivid with Hill’s bonus-point try coming after Callum Sheedy had kicked the penalties which put Wales out of sight.
Test rugby is, as Jones is fond of reminding people, a 23-man game now and England’s depth has been affected by the absence of forwards Sam Underhill, Joe Launchbury, Jack Willis and Courtney Lawes. Livewire scrum-half Harry Randall is also injured.
But England, of all the teams in the championship, should be able to put out a strong bench regardless given the numbers available to Jones.
After choosing six forwards amongst his eight replacements, as has been his habit of late, the England coach left two of them unused. Kyle Sinckler was going well at the time so there was a case to overlook Will Stuart but if Jones did not have sufficient faith in teenager George Martin to put him on the field why did he pick him?
England had second row and back row cover on the bench in Ewels and Ben Earl. Where was the potential backline game-breaker Paolo Odogwu?
The uncapped Wasp has not featured at all in the championship yet and by the time England face France a week on Saturday will not have played any rugby for eight weeks.
Jones has plenty to ponder in his selection for France. Maybe he should start with No 23 and work backwards.