Keep­ing up with the Jones joker

Nelson Mail - - Sport - Richard Knowler richard.knowler@stuff.co.nz

Ed­die Jones made quite a scene last week­end.

Within min­utes of Eng­land squeez­ing past South Africa 12-11 at Twick­en­ham, Jones clam­bered up on his soapbox, puffed out his chest and talked up his team’s chances of beat­ing the All Blacks.

It was an ex­tra­or­di­nary dis­play of bravado. Other coaches might have taken a more hum­ble ap­proach, but not Jones.

His English­men were not go­ing to be in­tim­i­dated by the All Blacks, a team good enough to be named World Rugby’s topranked team for eight years run­ning, when they meet at ‘HQ’ in Lon­don to­mor­row.

Fair enough. If you don’t pos­sess self­con­fi­dence in test footy, you may as well join the pie-eaters in a pres­i­dent’s grade club team.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen could have pub­licly ques­tioned whether Jones had been over­come by emo­tion, given Eng­land didn’t score any tries and were for­tu­nate not to con­cede a late penalty when Owen Far­rell launched a crude tackle in the fi­nal play of the game.

Oh, no. Hansen turned the other cheek. In fact he al­most wel­comed Jones’ com­ments, say­ing he had ev­ery right to in­stil con­fi­dence in his side.

But what mes­sage will Hansen be is­su­ing to his team be­hind closed doors? True, no All Blacks coach should have to say too much ahead of a test against Eng­land, but if he feels the need to lift the ten­sion an­other notch he could re­mind the play­ers that Jones has been yap­ping and ask: ‘‘What are you go­ing to do about it?’’

Eng­land will take heart from the fact that their last two vic­to­ries have been against South Africa, who beat the All Blacks in Welling­ton and should have done so again in Pre­to­ria. Set­ting aside the fact that they lost the June se­ries in the Repub­lic 2-1, and fin­ished sec­ond last in the Six Na­tions, Eng­land proved they don’t lack courage last week­end and the Red Rose sup­port­ers at Twick­en­ham will want to once again play their part.

‘‘There will be 80,000 peo­ple there sing­ing songs,’’ Hansen said. ‘‘And the only way we can qui­eten them is by dom­i­nat­ing. So at some point they are go­ing to be sing­ing, be­cause we won’t

dom­i­nate for the whole 80 min­utes.’’

The All Blacks will be good enough in the set pieces to claim their own ball.

Get­ting their tech­nique right at the break­downs – shift­ing big op­po­nents quickly – will be a must.

Start­ing Damian McKen­zie at full­back to add a counter-at­tack from the back and share the kick­ing du­ties with Beau­den Bar­rett is a bold move. McKen­zie is sure to be tested with high kicks, and get­ting iso­lated can­not be an op­tion.

Jones has brought Chris Ash­ton on to the wing in place of Jack Now­ell, loose­head prop Ben Moon is re­warded with his first test start and Sam Un­der­hill re­places in­jured flanker Tom Curry.

Eng­land might be con­ser­va­tive and lack the flair of New Zea­land, but if they build mo­men­tum and get the as­cen­dancy through their struc­tured game they could be very dif­fi­cult to stop. As South Africa dis­cov­ered, if teams don’t take their chances it fu­els Eng­land’s re­solve.

It’s im­per­a­tive the All Blacks don’t con­cede cheap penal­ties and if they are pro­voked, they must dance a fine line. Un­der no cir­cum­stances can they al­low them­selves to be bul­lied, but if they con­cede cheap penal­ties there is po­ten­tial to gift Far­rell an easy three points.

‘‘We saw at the week­end how im­por­tant dis­ci­pline is,’’ Hansen said. ‘‘It could have cost Eng­land couldn’t have it? So ev­ery test match is the same, if you al­low your­self to go to places you don’t need to or get over­aroused and start get­ting off­side and those sorts of things you just give them easy points.

‘‘Eng­land has got good kick­ers. In games like this – ev­ery­one has to earn. You don’t want to give it to them.’’

Eng­land coach Ed­die Jones has been in an up­beat mood all week about his team’s prospects against the All Black.

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