Do-or-die time for England – Eddie Jones
Eddie Jones will send his England side into battle against Australia amid a call to arms to survive their do-or-die World Cup encounter.
Jones has dropped the in-form George Ford for Saturday’s quarter-final at Oita Stadium and moved Owen Farrell to fly-half as part of a beefed-up midfield that includes Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade.
It is a conservative selection for a head coach who has staked the success of his entire England reign on the performance at Japan 2019.
After experiencing three previous World Cups, he knows passage into the semi-finals balances on a knife edge.
“The great thing about the World Cup is that every game is a knockout,” said Jones from the team hotel, situated at the foot of the mountains that overlook Beppu Bay.
“No-one has won a World Cup after losing a game and there’s a reason for that. You know it’s do-or-die time.
“You see those hills at the back of us? That’s where all the samurais lived. Every time the samurais fought, one lived and one died.
“It will be the same on Saturday – someone is going to live and someone is going to die.
“That’s what the game is about and that’s the excitement. You get the best eight teams, all playing for their lives.
“You saw that great interview with Semi Radradra after the Fiji game against Wales? He said he emptied his tank and he had to, for his country.
“That’s what every player in the eight teams is going to do this weekend – for their country. It makes it a little bit different and gives it more meaning. It’s fantastic.”
Jones has opted for greater physical presence in midfield in order to shackle centre Samu Kerevi, the Fijian-born battering ram who is Australia’s most destructive carrier.
As a result Ford must settle for a place on the bench to make way for the midfield trio that served England well during the Six Nations.
Farrell resumes as ringmaster but there is concern over his form form as he has fallen short of expectations so far in Japan and Jones reveals it is a topic that has been addressed with his captain.
“Owen’s got quite a big job for us. He’s captain and he’s goal-kicker,” Jones said.
“The responsibility of being captain at the World Cup is much larger than normal Test matches because you’re bringing a group of 31 players together for eight or nine weeks.
“You get all the family issues. You go to the dinner table, one brother is happy, one brother is unhappy. Someone doesn’t know if they are happy or not.
“Owen’s the father of the group, so to speak. His ability to delegate, to know what to say to players is a challenging experience for a young guy like him. He’s coping with it really well.
“But I feel like sometimes, maybe earlier in the tournament, he spent too much time in the captaincy area and not enough on his own individual prep. I’ve seen a real change in that this week.
“He’s a warrior. He leads from the front. He competes, he’s tough. And that’s what we’ve tried to produce in this team.
“We’ve got a tough team who competes hard. That’s how we want to play. That’s the England style of playing.”
Jones insists that lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy is earned by resilience more than genius.
“Tournaments are about – and particularly a World Cup is about – a team sticking together,” he said.
“The rugby in a World Cup is pretty simple. You don’t see brilliant rugby in World Cups.
“You see teams that are able to do things over and over again well, deal with the intensity, application, work hard for each other – that wins World Cups.
“I can’t recall a brilliant team winning the World Cup. Tough, hard teams that stick together win it.
“Maybe the only one is New Zealand in 2015. They were miles ahead of everyone. Apart from that…”