Red Rose get Autumn International series under way with narrow win
AFTER A dramatic victory over South Africa, and in amid all his jovial talk about the English media wanting to see him sacked, Eddie Jones was certain about one other thing: his side can beat world champions New Zealand.
Saturday’s 12-11 against-all-odds success against the Springboks was just the sort of tonic the injury-ravaged Red Rose needed to give their autumn internation- als campaign an immediate lift. England had won just one of their previous six Tests with pressure intensifying on Jones.
However, now they can look ahead to Saturday’s visit of the revered All Blacks with a spring in their step.
Back-to-back world champions New Zealand arrive in the UK, for their long-awaited first meeting with England since 2014, having beaten Japan 69-31 in Tokyo en route. For all their spirit and endeavour against the Springboks, few expect the hosts to be able to tame Shane Hansen’s side.
But Australian Jones, 58, said: “I remember facing the All Blacks twice as a player. Once was for my club, Randwick, and we believed we could beat them (in 1988).
“I think we got beaten 21-12 (sic 25-9). I think it’s on YouTube. We had (one of ) the smallest losing margins of any team on tour – including Australia – because we believed we could beat them.
“I played against them the next week, for New South Wales and we got beaten (29-4). No-one in that side believed they could beat them.
‘You’ve got to believe you can beat them. You’ve got to understand where they’re weak, understand where they’re strong and be disciplined in your gameplan.
“We’re going to start that process on Sunday night and be well prepared on Saturday.”
Regardless of whether or not Jones’ erstwhile New South Wales team-mates agree with his sentiments, it is hard to argue against his point.
Indeed, the Springboks defeated New Zealand 36-34 in Wellington in September and almost repeated that trick in Pretoria last month.
Jones added: “I said to the boys after this game that I can’t wait. I cannot wait.
“The (All Blacks) are the benchmark for world rugby; the team you want to play against. Where you are in the world, you only know when you play against the All Blacks.
“Any team that wins 91 per cent of their games is a great team. What other teams in world sport do that?’
“‘I didn’t need this (South Africa win) to make me believe we can beat the All Blacks.
“I thought we could beat the All Blacks back in 2016. Nothing has changed there!”