‘We lost our last final, so the big thing is to win’: Eddie Jones urges England to learn lessons from their painful World Cup defeat last year in Nations Cup showpiece against France and issues the claim ‘we want to win every phase of the game’
- England face France at Twickenham on Sunday in the Autumn Nations Cup final
- Eddie Jones wants his England team to learn the lessons from their last final loss
- His side were painfully beaten 32-12 in the Rugby World Cup in Japan last year
- Jones has named a strong side for the match and wants team to ‘win every phase’
England will go into Sunday’s Autumn Nations Cup final armed with an unprecedented advantage in terms of experience — which they intend to use to avoid the same trap they fell into last November in Japan.
Winning this contrived event will not heal the scars from their ordeal at the much grander, global showpiece 13 months ago.
However, Eddie Jones’s side have tried to harness painful lessons from what happened to them in the World Cup final –—when they suffered an almighty comedown after their victory over New Zealand the previous weekend, in the shape of a 32-12 defeat by South Africa.
Eddie Jones wants England to learn the lessons of their painful previous final appearance
The head coach has reflected on that episode constantly since the near-miss crusade, as have those players who were involved.
Most of them will be on duty on Sunday in a starting XV with a record collective tally of 813 Test caps, compared to France’s meagre 68. Never in the history of international rugby has there been such a gulf between competing countries.
Jones knows that, given the enforced absence of so many leading French players — a club-versus-country issue which utterly undermines the climax of this tournament — his side will be expected to dispatch callow opponents at Twickenham.
The England coach has named a strong side for their Autumn Nations Cup final vs France
So he has rammed home the message that they cannot cruise into the game with a superiority complex and be undone by a sudden momentum shift, as was the case when they were dismantled in Yokohama by the Springboks.
After naming a powerful line-up featuring just one change — with Anthony Watson replacing the injured Jonathan Joseph out wide — Jones issued a simple mission statement. ‘It’s a final and we lost our last final, so the big thing is to win,’ he said. ‘We want to dominate every phase of the game.’
To achieve that dominance, the English challenge is to avoid taking it for granted, when they are almost at full strength and the visitors are so weakened.
The lessons from the World Cup final and the build-up to it have proved valuable.
England lost 32-12 to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup Final 13 months ago in Japan
‘What we’ve noticed is that, in retrospect, we probably didn’t attack the week like we normally do,’ said Jones. ‘In the week of the World Cup final, we were probably more content to get through the week.
‘This week, we’ve had a real focus on attacking the game. It’s been a bit of a mind-set change.
‘There are two teams in a final — there are always favourites and underdogs. The favourites are in good form. It’s not necessarily a conscious decision, but sometimes you think, “Well, we’ve just got to continue”. But in sport, there is no such thing as continuing. You are either going up or you go down. When you are the underdog, it’s the converse; you know you’ve got to improve, you know you’ve got to keep working hard. We’ve had a big attempt to attack the week, to see where we can improve our game — not just sit back.’
Asked how often he has mulled over the World Cup final week in his mind in the period since, Jones added: ‘Probably every day. You reflect and think: “I should have done that. Would that have made a difference?” You constantly hear criticism of what you’ve done which drives you a bit more and you’ve got to learn from it.
Jones says the Nations Cup showpiece is opportunity to show they have learned from defeat
‘We have a great opportunity to show that we have learned from the World Cup final, but you never put it to bed. Even if you win the next World Cup, it never puts to bed that final. It stays with you.
‘In any sport you’re in a cycle of success and failure. As soon as you’ve had success, failure is sitting next to you. When you are in a failure period, you have got success sitting next to you. There is always an opportunity there.’
There is certainly a big opportunity for England on Sunday, to end this Covid-disrupted year with another trophy to show for their efforts. They edged out France to claim the Six Nations title and they should be capable of exerting their authority over unfamiliar foes. The frustration is that a final which should be a thunderous instalment of ‘Le Crunch’ is expected to be a mismatch.
England’s commanding power up front is expected to be too much for France’s novices
England have so much firepower up front, such a commanding platform of set-piece clout and the ability to wield their driving maul as an attacking weapon that they could afford to keep it tight and just grind Fabien Galthie’s novices down.
The hope is that they will seek to expand their repertoire, in defiance of the breakdown threats and defensive pressure which have turned rugby in these parts into a largely one-dimensional war of attrition of late.
A home win is all but certain, bringing more precious metal to the RFU’s trophy cabinet.
But the 2,000 supporters at Twickenham and the public watching from afar will hope that the national team can sign off their 2020 campaign with a glorious flourish.
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