Eng­land ‘will not fall for Pu­mas’ two-card trick’

Jones re­fuses to change style af­ter jibes Mako Vu­nipola, Now­ell and Slade re­turn to 23

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

Ed­die Jones has stated that Eng­land will not fall for the “two-card trick” that was played on them in the 1991 fi­nal when taunted by Aus­tralia into chang­ing their “bor­ing” style of play and will head into to­mor­row’s crunch pool game against Ar­gentina with the strong­est, most ver­sa­tile squad he has fielded in this World Cup.

This is Eng­land’s “gun” 23, a multi-faceted group who in­clude for the first time on the bench three of their most highly-re­garded play­ers, prop Mako Vu­nipola, wing Jack Now­ell and cen­tre Henry Slade, who are all re­turn­ing from in­jury.

The punch and ver­sa­til­ity that this trio alone pos­sess put paid to the no­tion of Eng­land as a staid, one-di­men­sional side, as de­scribed by Pu­mas squad cap­tain Agustin Creevy, and, as a hus­tler him­self, coach Jones has no in­ten­tion of be­ing suck­ered as Eng­land were by one of his own men­tors, for­mer Wal­laby coach Bob Dwyer.

“It is the old two-card trick,” said Jones, who has se­lected from strength with all 31 play­ers avail­able. “Bob threw that one out there be­fore the 1991 fi­nal and there was a re­sponse from the Eng­land side.

“Maybe if they hadn’t played like that they would now have two World Cups on their sleeves. There are many dif­fer­ent ways to play the game. I give you a book and you think it is in­ter­est­ing, I give it to some­one else and he thinks it is rub­bish, so what is right? Noth­ing is right. Find a way to play the game ef­fec­tively, that’s all that mat­ters.

“That is the great thing about our game. We know what we are good at. Like any good bats­man you can get se­duced every now and then by a loose ball out­side the off stump. But, by and large, I think we are pretty dis­ci­plined.”

That much is re­flected in this selec­tion, where the only sur­prise, one that would not even reg­is­ter a flicker of the Richter nee­dle, is that rookie Lewis Lud­lam is pre­ferred as back-row cover to Mark Wil­son, who was Eng­land’s stand­out per­former in the au­tumn Tests.

Eng­land have ex­per­i­mented, as well as grafted, to get to this point, where faith is now placed in tried and trusted com­bi­na­tions that of­fer them the abil­ity to keep it tight or to spread it wide, where the pace of a Jonny May can cut through an op­po­si­tion.

Eng­land are an all-court side with enough pos­si­ble shifts of style and tempo avail­able to them, be it the deft kick­ing of Ge­orge Ford, in a tour­na­ment where kick­ing has be­come all-im­por­tant as the hu­mid con­di­tions im­pact on han­dling, or the boom­ing left-footed op­tion of­fered by El­liot Daly or Slade from the bench.

Their for­wards pack a punch, too, not in the grind­ing, close-quar­ters man­ner im­plicit in Creevy’s com­ments, but in the thrust­ing ball-car­ry­ing of the Vu­nipola broth­ers or in the sub­tle in­ter­ven­tions of tight­head Kyle Sinck­ler. Cer­tainly, the re­turn of Mako Vu­nipola to the first-team squad is a boon, for the team but also for his brother, Billy, who seems to lift his game when­ever his el­der sib­ling is on the field, too.

“Yes, 100 per cent,” said Jones in agree­ment. “There is some­thing about broth­ers and fam­i­lies that dis­tin­guish them from just be­ing friends and I think that car­ries a lot of weight. Mako is the best loose­head in the world. He is a se­nior coun­sel for our team. We have a rea­son­ably young team and Mako has that calm­ness. It’s al­ways like that with two broth­ers.

“One’s a bit more volatile, the other more set­tled, so Mako was al­ways up at the front of the car with the par­ents while Billy was in the back, scream­ing. Billy is great for us be­cause he has got that fire and tem­per­a­ment and you want that from your No8. You look at the his­tory of the World Cups and they’ve al­ways been won by big No8s.”

Eng­land have opted for the dou­ble-banked open­side flanker set-up ei­ther side of Billy Vu­nipola, with Jones be­liev­ing that there has been greater scope for con­test­ing the break­down in this World Cup and has backed the Tom Curry and Sam Un­der­hill combo to de­liver great yield in that facet.

There is an­other player honed in those self-same skills and that is Now­ell, re­stored to the colours for the first time since dam­ag­ing knee and an­kle lig­a­ments in the Pre­mier­ship fi­nal, a match in which he had ruled the roost over an im­pres­sively tal­ented Sara­cens side, only to be forced off with in­jury.

The Ex­eter player then suc­cumbed to ap­pen­dici­tis dur­ing Eng­land’s train­ing camp in Tre­viso, a run of bad luck that would test the most re­silient of char­ac­ters. Now­ell also of­fers a unique per­spec­tive on wing play. If noth­ing else, Eng­land’s re­place­ment bench is laden with the sort of qual­ity and va­ri­ety that will trou­ble the Pu­mas.

“Jack could play any­where from six/seven/eight to any­where in the back­line com­pe­tently,” said Jones. “He has amaz­ing fight­ing spirit. He works so hard for the team, and is a re­ally good team man. And, while co­he­sion is im­por­tant in your squad, you also have to have flex­i­bil­ity.”

Eng­land have cer­tainly got that in their ranks.

Wel­come re­turn: Jack Now­ell is back on the Eng­land bench for to­mor­row’s game

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