5 talking points ahead of England’s World Cup clash with Tonga
England enter their World Cup campaign against Tonga at the Sapporo Dome on Sunday as overwhelming favourites to make a winning start to Pool C.
Here, the PA news agency examines five talking points ahead of the game.
Time to deliver
Four years ago Eddie Jones was appointed with one purpose in mind – to take the Webb Ellis Trophy back to Twickenham. After the inexperience of his predecessor Stuart Lancaster, England made Jones the highest paid coach in international rugby in the hope he would provide the expertise needed to transform a team that had bombed in 2015 into world beaters. There have been some outstanding successes and undoubted failures, but Jones can only be judged by the team’s performance during the next six weeks.
A question to be answered
The big concern over England is their tendency to collapse when in front. It is a frailty seen time and again since the start of the 2018 summer tour to South Africa and it cost them dear in the recent Six Nations when they threw away a lead against Wales before imploding when confronted by a remarkable comeback from Scotland. Do they now know how to react when a game must be changed? Only the next few weeks will show if Jones has pressed the right buttons.
All guns blazing
England want to start the tournament with a statement and to that end have named their strongest available side that shows only two changes to the team that flattened Ireland in record fashion at Twickenham last month. The key selection is the midfield where the twin playmaker option of George Ford and Owen Farrell is now back in favour after being abandoned last year.
Kingdom of Tonga
A source of enormous pride to Tonga is their history of successfully fighting off invaders – they are the only one of the three Pacific Island nations playing at the World Cup to escape being colonised. The ferocity they once showed in repelling attackers has shaped their national psyche and, having been passed down through the generations, exists to this day through the warrior spirit displayed on a rugby pitch.
Princes versus paupers
For all their courage, there is no hiding the cold, hard fact that Tonga enter only the third meeting between the rivals as huge underdogs who can be backed as high as 80/1 to complete one of the World Cup’s greatest upsets. England stars receive £25,000 for each match, a sum that dwarfs the measly £330 earned by the Islanders that makes it so hard to stop their talent being plundered by clubs and richer nations.