Eddie Jones is right about New Zealand but the pressure is on England3 min read
It was a strong performance from England but this week is a far sterner test
New Zealand are there for the taking, that is according to Eddie Jones’ post-match comments. Is it classic Eddie? Reverting to type, trying to ignite the week and entice his players into a reaction. Sure, but he is also very right.
Most teams, if not all, in that upper echelon of world rugby rankings can beat one another on their day. For example, take New Zealand. Having put 50 points on Wales in their first autumn series game, they were subsequently nearly beaten by Scotland, only pulling clear in the final ten minutes. Argentina too, beating England in week one, then losing to Wales.
The point being that although Eddie is up to his usual tricks, he is also correct. This made England’s performance against Japan all the more impressive against challenging opposition.
England were at it from the off. Setting their stall out early behind the dominance of the set-piece, it was an all-round professional performance from England against a side they will meet in the World Cup pool stages next year. A marker was set and a recovery was made.
There too were improvements in the interplay between the axis of Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell. Much questioned and analysed from afar, even in its infancy and potentially unfairly, there were signs the relationship was beginning to function.
The caveat to this is that England were fluid, profiting from front-foot ball, behind a dominant pack. Even the raised eyebrows of Manu Tuilagi’s selection on the bench, were quickly lowered as Guy Porter scurried over for two tries. It was a strong, solid performance from England, one which will have resettled their nervous doubts about their first week’s hit-out.
This week is a far sterner test. Jones is right, with world rugby’s rankings in a state of flux and teams capable of beating each other, but there is no getting away from the fact this is the All Blacks, who seem to be finding their rhythm and flow again. Imperious against Wales and dogged in Scotland, it makes Saturday a huge fixture.
Make no bones about it, for all Jones’ words the pressure is very much on England. Win this game and there is real momentum, lose and England’s autumn mini-World Cup tournament is in disarray. Currently New Zealand are there for the taking but, worryingly, so are England.
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MORE : Eddie Jones benches Manu Tuilagi for Japan over injury fears
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