Jones hopes for a Hol­ly­wood end­ing against New Zealand

Eng­land aim­ing to put a marker down in first meet­ing with All Blacks in four years

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SPORTS - ROBERT KIT­SON

Pre­view Eng­land v New Zealand Twick­en­ham, 2.0 Live on Sky Sports Main

Plans are still afoot to make a fea­ture film of Ed­die Jones’s finest tac­ti­cal mas­ter­classes. Even to­day’s Twick­en­ham block­buster can­not hope to match Ja­pan’s 2015 Rugby World Cup win over South Africa, the Brighton-based thriller star­ring Eng­land’s cur­rent coach. Not since Jaws, the posters will pro­claim, has there been a movie based on a more shock­ing sea­side out­come.

Maybe that is why Jones went for a cin­e­matic metaphor be­fore New Zealand’s long-an­tic­i­pated visit to English rugby’s colos­seum. His­tory, he be­lieves, is full of teams so daz­zled by the All Blacks’ aura they might as well have sat in the stalls. “They eat pop­corn, have a can of Pepsi and they watch the movie. By the time they re­alise ‘we can be in this’, it’s too late. We don’t want to sit there and watch, be­cause that’s what hap­pens when you play New Zealand some­times. We want to make the movie, we want to be film directors.”

Lights, cam­era, ac­tion. This Eng­land side are hardly Hol­ly­wood roy­alty but their heads will not be turned, Jones in­sists, by the stars of the sil­ver fern.

Eng­land and New Zealand’s last meet­ing was in Novem­ber 2014 – That game ended in a 24-21 de­feat, the All Blacks’ 14th vic­tory in the last 15 games. Eng­land know the odds are against them but are far from re­signed to a sim­i­lar out­come this time.

Be­cause if Jones’s team were slightly for­tu­nate not to be 20 points adrift of South Africa by half-time last week, their sub­se­quent fight­back was a glimpse of what might yet be. Miss­ing a few key men they may be, but re­solve is not a prob­lem.

“We need to un­der­stand that like any team they’ve got weak­nesses and we’ve got an op­por­tu­nity to get at them,” mur­mured the head coach. “Thirty-three per cent of our play­ers have beaten them and the other 67 per cent want to beat them. We’re happy to go out there and get stuck into them. If we’re good enough, we beat them. If we’re not good enough then we’ll work out how we can get good enough.”

The longer-term goal of suc­cess at next year’s World Cup, in other words, will ul­ti­mately out­weigh to­day’s out­come. Per­haps, but Steve Hansen has not picked his strong­est-avail­able All Blacks side on a whim. Punc­ture English self-be­lief now and it will be that much harder for Jones to pump the char­iot’s tyres back up be­fore Ja­pan 2019.

Eng­land’s most glar­ing prob­lem is that any back­line con­tain­ing Beau­den Bar­rett, Ben Smith, Damian McKenzie, Rieko Ioane and Sonny Bill Wil­liams is li­able to score more than 25 points, even if they play badly. When they lost to South Africa in Welling­ton dur­ing Septem­ber they still man­aged 34 points; they have reg­is­tered at least four tries, re­mark­ably, in each of their past 12 Tests.

Eng­land, by con­trast, did not cross the white­wash once against South Africa.

When Jones refers to New Zealand as the bench­mark of his own squad’s progress, he is talk­ing about all ar­eas. Re­strict Bar­rett and co to bit-part roles and it will rep­re­sent a se­ri­ous tri­umph for the for­wards coach, Steve Borth­wick, and John Mitchell, now pre­sid­ing over Eng­land’s de­fence. Tear the vis­i­tors’ de­fen­sive line apart re­peat­edly, as Manu Tuilagi and his team-mates did back in 2012, and the whole world will sit up and take note.

But New Zealand are still more than ca­pa­ble of find­ing an­other gear via Brodie Re­tal­lick, Kieran Read, Aaron Smith and their shrewd kick­ing game.

Penal­ties will not be enough for Eng­land: it is now 100 Tests and seven years since the All Blacks lost to a team who did not score at least one try. Only if Chris Ash­ton runs amok, Far­rell kicks ev­ery­thing and Brad Shields proves the All Blacks se­lec­tors spec­tac­u­larly wrong, will Eng­land achieve their heart’s de­sire.

This Eng­land team con­tains bet­ter play­ers than peo­ple some­times per­ceive; the is­sue has al­ways been keep­ing them fit, pick­ing the right com­bi­na­tions and find­ing the best way to max­imise their po­ten­tial. New Zealand have led the world for much of the past decade, but will this week­end and next show that their Eu­ro­pean ri­vals are catch­ing up? Quite pos­si­bly, but by the time the Twick­en­ham pop­corn has been eaten and the au­di­to­rium lights ex­tin­guished, it is still hard to see the men in black fin­ish­ing sec­ond.

– Guardian

Ed­die Jones: “We want to make the movie, we want to be film directors”

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