CHRIS FOY: Energised England are primed to turn over the All Blacks again… seven-try demolition of Japan provided an emphatic reponse to shock Argentina defeat as Eddie Jones’s side did exactly what they said they were going to do
- A much-improved England ran in seven tries to overwhelm Japan
- New Zealand and South Africa are next on the fixture list for them
- The emphatic victory will inject confidence and belief into their preparations
Job done, now on to the big one. England have New Zealand in their sights and renewed belief that they can upset the southern kings.
This seven-try demolition of Japan represented an emphatic response to last week’s shock defeat to Argentina as Eddie Jones’s side did exactly what they said they were going to do.
They pledged to stop worrying and over-thinking in order to play with more freedom and daring intent and were true to their word. The visitors were overwhelmed by English power and creativity. But for a few late handling lapses, the hosts could have scored 70 points.
England have New Zealand in their sights and renewed belief that they can upset them
But what awaits next will be an almighty test of their revival. New Zealand emerged from a slump of their own to win the Rugby Championship yet again, before running riot against Wales in Cardiff as a signal of their capacity to achieve another northern conquest.
After suffering a major scare against Scotland yesterday, Ian Foster’s side will be reinforced and angry. England know there is a storm coming, but feel equipped to repel it.
Jones set the bullish tone. Having declared that his team can ‘break history’ by beating the mighty Kiwis, as they did in their last meeting — the 2019 World Cup semi-final — the head coach was asked how he would seek to instil the right mindset in his squad.
He said: ‘By talking about it, acknowledging it, believing there are parts of our game that are better than theirs and making sure that they understand where the All Blacks side is weak.
‘Even when the All Blacks were winning at 92 per cent, they still had weaknesses and you have got to be able to find them.
‘Like any team, if you dig down deep enough you can put them under pressure. We were able to do that in 2019 and there is no reason we cannot do it again.’
On the evidence of events at Murrayfield yesterday, New Zealand could be ‘there for the taking’, as Jones claimed at his post-match press conference.
He then spoke about embracing the magnitude of the fixture next weekend rather than suppressing that sense of a grand event. He is adamant his players will be inspired by the chance to claim the most prized scalp in the sport, adding: ‘Like anyone, you want to do something special in life and our players are no different.’
The performance against Japan provided evidence that several of his key men are hitting their stride at the right time.
Freddie Steward was imperious at full-back — as has become the norm — while captain Owen Farrell had an outstanding game in his 99th Test.
But Jones also highlighted the work of his forwards on a day when their physicality in defence and attack was too much for the Brave Blossoms.
Marcus Smith (pictured) and Guy Porter both crossed the line for Eddie Jones’ side
‘That’s the best I’ve seen Itoje play for a while,’ said Jones. ‘He was very forceful and Curry was a different player to last week.
‘When I look back to last week, some of our players looked short of a run and he was much better, much more intense and really good leadership support.’
England’s starting props received emphatic endorsements too, with the head coach adding: ‘Kyle Sinckler at his best is the best tighthead in the world. He’s been out for a while, struggled to find his feet a bit last week, but was much better today.
‘Ellis Genge was outstanding. I get goosebumps when I think about the changes in him. He has all the hallmarks of a world-class player.’
Japan were made to look ordinary. Jamie Joseph’s side fell off tackles and their handling failed under pressure.
Scotland showed New Zealand could also be made to look ordinary if England are ferocious and relentless. Their handling rarely fails them, but it did yesterday, as Jones will have noted.
Steward summed up the mood, saying: ‘As a young lad who has watched rugby his whole life, the All Blacks are the team you want to play against. To be able to face the Haka and things like that is so exciting. I’ll probably need to get over being starstruck in the week so that I am ready.’
The Leicester rookie revealed he watched with other students at Loughborough as England dismantled the All Blacks in Yokohama three years ago.
‘That proved the point, that they are beatable,’ he said. ‘It was incredible. Hopefully we can recreate that. It’s important not to get caught up in that aura of their history and success and treat it as just another game. We’ll put together a plan to beat them.’
Sam Simmonds was another standout figure in England’s win, adding dynamism to the hosts’ back row.
He will relish the prospect of a head-to-head with Ardie Savea, who he called ‘probably the best No 8 in the world at the moment’. In fact, Savea is arguably the world’s form player in any position and sums up the magnitude of what Jones’s men are up against.
The head coach faces stick-or-twist selection quandaries. Few who started against Japan did anything to justify a demotion, although Manu Tuilagi is certain to return at the expense of Guy Porter, despite the Tiger scoring two tries.
But Jones will not be afraid to back different horses for a very different course now England have turned a corner and broken into a gallop.
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