Jones: Eng­land must star in their own movie

Head coach urges his team not to sit back against the All Blacks but de­liver a block­buster

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Rugby - Mick Cleary

Eng­land have ev­ery in­ten­tion of steal­ing the lime­light from the All Black A-lis­ters at Twick­en­ham to­day with Ed­die Jones urg­ing his play­ers “to ditch the pop­corn and Pepsi and to make the movie them­selves”. The for­mer Aus­tralia head coach has seen many teams beaten be­fore they have taken the field against New Zealand, over­come by their aura and their rep­u­ta­tion.

Jones has stressed to his team the need to em­brace the mo­ment and to chal­lenge the back-to-back world cham­pi­ons in ev­ery facet of the game. This is a time for Eng­land to re-as­sert them­selves, to re­claim the sta­tus they held two years ago af­ter match­ing the All Blacks’ run of 18 suc­ces­sive Test vic­to­ries.

“You can ei­ther make the movie or be in the movie and we want to make the movie,” said Jones, whose record against the All Blacks is as good as any, with five wins in 11 matches. “We don’t want to sit there and just watch it, be­cause that is what hap­pens some­times when you play New Zealand.

“You think they’re the best team in the world and you can’t com­pete against them. Some play­ers sit there, eat pop­corn, have a can of Pepsi and watch the movie. But 33 per cent of our play­ers have beaten New Zealand so un­der­stand that, like any team, they have weak­nesses and you have an op­por­tu­nity to get at them. We don’t want to watch the movie. We want to make the movie. We want to be the film di­rec­tors.”

It would be a Twick­en­ham block­buster if Eng­land were to win, a vic­tory to rank with any in their his­tory given the in­jury ab­sen­tees and their re­cent mid­dling-to-poor form. As things stand, it is a fan­tasy tale. But at £195 for a top price ticket, the terms and con­di­tions ought at least to al­low Eng­land sup­port­ers to dream. Eng­land are well aware, though, that if they per­form as they did in the first half against South Africa then the film footage of yet an­other All Black vic­tory will be in the can.

Eng­land have to be script-per­fect if they are to pull off an upset. The All Blacks may have had the odd wob­ble this year but they still play true to the her­itage of the sil­ver fern. New Zealand are vir­tu­ally at full strength, with only an in­jury to loose­head Joe Moody to bother them. One man for­feits, an­other steps for­ward, in this in­stance the for­mer bouncer Karl Tu’inukuafe.

For all the talk of this be­ing a World Cup ex­am­i­na­tion for Eng­land, the op­po­site is true. It is New Zealand who are on trial, see­ing this eight-day turn­around against Eng­land and then Ire­land in Dublin as the Tests that they need to come through if they are to head to­wards Ja­pan with the as­sur­ance they are seek­ing. For the All Blacks, there is no such thing as per­fec­tion, only the jour­ney to­wards it. Damian Mcken­zie at full-back, Jack Good­hue in the cen­tre – stag­ing-post au­di­tions on the way to once again pro­duc­ing a po­ten­tially World Cup-win­ning side.

For Eng­land, it is dif­fer­ent. Jones says that this fix­ture has “no rel­e­vance” to the World Cup – which is partly hokum and partly true. All teams ben­e­fit from mo­men­tum, the up­lift that vic­tory pro­vides, as a spring­board into the 2019 Six Na­tions if noth­ing else. But, equally, Jones is with­out too many front-line play­ers, half-a-dozen cer­tain­ties, for this to be a true as­sess­ment of how they will fare in 10 months’ time.

And yet, Twick­en­ham is Twick­en­ham and hard cash handed over at the gate de­mands a cer­tain out­put on the field. In the af­ter­math of the graft­ing, gasp­ing vic­tory over South Africa, Jones pledged that Eng­land would not be “wear­ing sin­glets and run­ning shorts”, for this en­counter. The fore­cast is for rain and Eng­land are pre­pared for a slog. Sam Un­der­hill fits that bill in terms of de­fen­sive chop-tack­ling and grub­bing for ball.

Maro Itoje caught the eye for the wrong rea­sons in the first half last week, con­ced­ing three penal­ties and be­ing sent to the sin-bin. Yet Itoje should not be damned. He is the com­pet­i­tive heart­beat of that pack, striv­ing, con­fronting and mak­ing a nui­sance of him­self. The line is fine but Itoje must be cut some slack. With­out such zeal and skill to com­bat the all-round bril­liance of a Brodie Re­tal­lick or to chase down a Rieko Ioane on the wide out­side, Eng­land are doomed.

Owen Farrell en­cap­su­lates that at­ti­tude. The Eng­land fly-half has de­clared that last week’s con­tro­versy over his tackle on An­dre Ester­huizen will not prey on his mind and that he is in­tent on play­ing his nor­mal game.

“I’m well aware of the rules,” said Farrell. “I don’t want to play to the edge of them, I want to play within them. Last week is done and it def­i­nitely won’t be in my head go­ing into this week­end.”

Eng­land know that they have to score tries, hence the pref­er­ence for Chris Ash­ton. “If some­one makes a break, he’ll be there,” said Farrell, his ex-sara­cens’ team-mate.

Eng­land must find a blend of prag­ma­tism and ad­ven­ture, deal­ing with the high ball at the rear in bet­ter fash­ion than against the Boks and be­ing care­ful not to play into New Zealand hands by be­ing care­less or too loose. “New Zealand ap­ply the pres­sure and then feed off the scraps,” said Eng­land at­tack coach Scott Wise­man­tel. “They’re out­stand­ing at that. We need to be harsh on our­selves.”

Eng­land have a slug­ger’s chance of de­liv­er­ing a knock­out blow, but no more than that. Hol­ly­wood has made great mileage from such sto­ry­lines. Now it is Eng­land’s turn. Smash hit or flop? Roll up for the Twick­en­ham mati­nee show.

Prac­tice makes per­fect: Owen Farrell works on his kick­ing dur­ing train­ing

Dogged op­po­nent: Ed­die Jones chases An­nie, his pet Papillon, dur­ing train­ing

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