Eddie Jones is to spend the next two months refining the chemical formula that propelled England to a successful autumn.
Tonga, Australia and South Africa were swept aside at Twickenham this month to rebuild the team’s reputation after a dismal fifth-place finish in the Six Nations.
Aside from the pleasing results, the campaign was notable for the emergence of a group of young prospects, with full-back Freddie Steward and fly-half Marcus Smith among England’s top performers.
Most were blooded during the July Tests against the USA and Canada, but an enthralling 27-26 victory against world champions South Africa on Saturday was when they came of age.
Jones admits there is always a strong element of uncertainty to introducing a generation of players but is now looking for the right ingredients to add ahead of the Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 5.
“We seem to have a really good mix at the moment and we’ve got to find what the right thing is to put in next – some hydrochloric acid or a bit of sodium. We are not sure what we need next to keep it burning,” Jones said.
“We got that summer tour squad together and you never really know. That’s probably the youngest ever squad we have ever had. But you never know how they are going to gel.
“Four or five weeks ago I was talking to a coach who won a major trophy – a major, major trophy. I said, ‘What did you do?’. He said, ‘I really don’t know, every team I get I do the same thing and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t’.
“We got those young guys together in summer and you don’t really know. We do the same things we always do, we encouraged them to work together, we encouraged them to train hard.
“For some reason there was this chemistry in that group – and it just took off. Then you have the interesting situation where you put them back with a few of the established players and again you don’t really know what’s going to happen.
“But they seem to have gelled really well, they have a nice feel about them. And when you have that nice feel they tend to fight a bit harder, they dig down a bit deeper.
“Because the tank is never empty. Sometimes you think it’s empty. They were able to find a lot of extra petrol in the tank on Saturday and for a lot of it we don’t know why.”
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