Jones tells his rook­ies to put team ahead of per­sonal glory

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup -

RUGBY COR­RE­SPON­DENT in Kobe Ed­die Jones has warned his rookie team not to go off-script in pur­suit of per­sonal glory as they pre­pare to take on a United States team the Eng­land head coach likens to “15 Don­ald Trumps – ag­gres­sive, brash and ready to take on the world”.

Jones has made 10 changes for the match here to­mor­row as he looks to cope with the drain­ing de­mands of a four-day turn­around be­tween games and is acutely aware of the trap play­ers could fall into if they see this as their one chance to make an im­pres­sion, only to un­der­mine the cause by play­ing to their own per­sonal agenda. “That’s the dan­ger with th­ese games,” said Jones, who has picked an in­ex­pe­ri­enced Bath pair­ing on the wing in Joe Cokanasiga and Ruar­idh Mc­connochie, as well as Willi Heinz at scrum-half, with Lewis Lud­lam on the flank.

“It’s the sec­ond or the third game where play­ers might think it’s their only game of the World Cup and go out there try­ing to play for them­selves, rather than for the team.”

At the 2007 tour­na­ment, Jones was a con­sul­tant with South Africa and re­called a match against Tonga. “We were lucky to beat them,” he said. “A num­ber of guys played out­side the team and played for them­selves, so one of the most im­por­tant things in this game is that the play­ers play for the team, and if they play for the team they put them­selves in a bet­ter se­lec­tion mix.”

One of those ty­ros is Heinz, who has no con­cerns that in­di­vid­u­als might stray from the game plan. “We have spo­ken a lot about team co­he­sion and it is some­thing we have worked hard on,” said Heinz, who was a sur­prise in­clu­sion in the World Cup squad, hav­ing made his Test de­but only dur­ing the Au­gust warm-up matches.

“I don’t think any­one is go­ing to fall into the trap of think­ing, ‘I’m get­ting a start so I re­ally need to go out and prove my point’. We all know we have a mas­sive goal we want to achieve and this game is an­other step in try­ing to achieve that. And the way we do that is by all buy­ing in and for each mem­ber of the team to go out and nail their role. The coaches make it clear what your role is and if you do your piece of the puz­zle we will get the per­for­mance we are af­ter.”

The in­ex­pe­ri­ence in the XV is off­set by the in­clu­sion of the likes of No8 Billy Vu­nipola, who makes his 11th suc­ces­sive start. The Sara­cen has played right through­out the warm-up pe­riod and into the tour­na­ment it­self, one of only five starters re­tained from the laboured opener against Tonga in Sap­poro on Sun­day. It is in­con­ceiv­able that he will not be the first-choice pick for Eng­land’s re­main­ing pool games, against Ar­gentina and France, and also through the knock­out stages were Eng­land to progress.

Jones ac­knowl­edges that Vu­nipola’s poor track record with in­jury over the past cou­ple of years was “a con­sid­er­a­tion”, but re­futed the no­tion that it was a risk.

“It’s a risk him go­ing out and eat­ing Kobe beef tonight,” Jones said. “It’s much bet­ter he plays rugby than goes out and eats beef. He loves rugby, loves play­ing, he wants to play. We have a squad of 31. We have a plan for each player. Some need to play a lot of rugby, some play­ers are much bet­ter play­ing ev­ery so of­ten, and we have tried to man­age that with in­juries. Mark Wil­son [who had a mi­nor is­sue with his knee] is bet­ter from the bench this week. But we want Billy in his best con­di­tion and his best con­di­tion is to play rugby. He’s still got an­other two-three per cent [of fit­ness con­di­tion­ing] to go.”

An­other who has man­aged to get him­self into good shape is tight­head Dan Cole, who draws along­side Jonny Wilkin­son as Eng­land’s third-most capped player with 91. It was only a year ago that Cole’s in­ter­na­tional ca­reer looked to have hit the buf­fers. Yet the 32-year-old re­fused to throw in the towel.

“Ninety games in the most phys­i­cally de­mand­ing and ex­act­ing po­si­tion is a mas­sive achieve­ment,” Jones, a for­mer front-row player him­self, said. “Dan has got a pas­sion for rugby. That is the great­est love of all for a player. He has been able to re­gen­er­ate him­self, rein­vig­o­rate him­self, worked hard on his fit­ness and ac­cel­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity.”

Joe Mar­ler, Cole’s loose­head part­ner, was also out of con­sid­er­a­tion a year ago af­ter re­tir­ing for per­sonal rea­sons from the Test arena. He, too, has rekin­dled his ar­dour.

“The first week Joe came back into camp, he looked out of sorts,” Jones said. “I think he thought, ‘I don’t know whether I’ve made the right de­ci­sion here’. He was so far off the pace, but he’s such a good player that it didn’t take him long to re­spond. He’s a bit of a lar­rikin, but also a very se­ri­ous rugby player who un­der­stands the game well.

“He has a strong, calm­ing in­flu­ence on the field – as funny as that might seem. That is mas­sively valu­able. This squad is quite young, so hav­ing those older two props is quite im­por­tant.’

Eng­land have de­cided to opt for cau­tion with cen­tre Henry Slade, who picked up a bump to his knee against Tonga in what was his first ap­pear­ance since dam­ag­ing his knee in the Pre­mier­ship fi­nal for Ex­eter on June 1.

Fir­ing: Billy Vu­nipola will make his 11th suc­ces­sive Eng­land start to­mor­row

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