The England veterans proved they still have a lot to give, as Jamie George, Jonny May and Ben Youngs each had two attempts against Tonga, while Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes gave hugely impressive performances.
- Jamie George and the other England veterans proved they still have a lot to offer
- Thirties showed England that they can be part of the immediate future
- Courtney Lawes gave a monumental performance as the alternate captain
- Manu Tuilagi marked his return with a classic display of his threat in midfield.
Despite all the excitement generated by Marcus Smith’s dazzling cameo, what really stood out at Twickenham was how much Jamie George and the other England veterans still have to offer.
The 30-somethings showed Eddie Jones, the jubilant crowd and English rugby audiences that they can be part of the immediate future. George, Jonny May and Ben Youngs each scored two attempts, Manu Tuilagi marked his return with a classic display of his threat in midfield and Courtney Lawes put on a monumental performance as a substitute captain.
While much of the noise and fervor reached a climax when midfielder Smith worked his magic in the final stages, the experienced core of the home team had laid the foundation for this emphatic victory. They face tougher assignments in the next fortnight, but this was a promising statement of intent.
Jamie George was one of several veterans who proved against Tonga that they still have a lot to give
Jonny May also had a splendid performance, catching two attempts in the 69-3 victory.
This new era for England may include some older faces. When he named his team, Jones questioned whether players in a third cycle of the World Cup can find the momentum to climb to another peak in their career. George, Tuilagi and May are in that category, and Lawes and Youngs have their sights set on participating in a fourth world masterpiece.
The task of proving to Jones that he has the necessary motivation has started well. For George, that agenda is especially evident after he was initially dropped from the team before Luke Cowan-Dickie’s injury gave him a break. The Saracen prostitute admitted that she had been hurt by Jones’ omission and explanation.
“It took me by surprise, if I’m honest,” George said. In fact, I missed Eddie’s call, which was awkward. Then I had four missed calls. The writing was on the wall at the time! It was hard. I found it really challenging. He told me that I haven’t been up to date for a year. It was a very, very difficult time. I had many things in mind.
“It has been a difficult year for me with going to the Championship and South Africa (Lions tour) not going the way I wanted. I told Eddie when he didn’t choose me that I was going to come back and try to make sure I proved him wrong. That was part of the motivation. It was good to do that.
“My form at the moment is pretty good, but I’ve only been in a few games this season so I have to make sure I’m on top.”
Addressing the head coach’s claim that some veterans have a hard time maintaining motivation levels, George added: “It’s Eddie’s style: it keeps people on their toes. He never likes us to settle in. But I don’t think it was ever in my mind that I was not motivated to enter a third cycle of the World Cup. I am as motivated as ever. I really want to be part of this team. I love playing for England, I always have, always will and never take it for granted. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to play for England again. ”
Marcus Smith wowed the Twickenham crowd, but the veterans’ form was even more surprising
Ben Youngs also scored two attempts in the wild victory against a full house at Twickenham.
Henry Slade was named man of the match and the Exeter center showed grace and class in attack, but Lawes was the standout figure.
Northampton’s lock, which operates on the blind side as it did with the Lions, provided more evidence that he is playing better than ever. His close-range handling was a real feature, as highlighted when he dispatched Ellis Genge clear to set up an excellent route one attempt finished by Maro Itoje.
But while his passing was impressive, it was Lawes’ surprising cover tackle on Telusa Veainu that epitomized his contribution. He had to cover a lot of ground in a hurry, but still had the energy and presence of mind to block and twist Tongan’s full back to prevent him from scoring an interception attempt.
“Yeah, I was pretty happy with it,” Lawes said. Obviously I saw the interception and I started running back and then I saw that Freddie Steward was going to make the inning, so I kept going. Fortunately, I was able to get there. Freddie really did the hard work, but I’ll take the glory! ‘
After being asked on short notice to assume the captaincy in the absence of Owen Farrell, he added: ‘I really enjoyed it. I am very honored to be the captain of England. Tonga has given me a nice souvenir: it is like a wooden dagger. I don’t know the name, but it’s great! ‘
Jones paid tribute to his employer and his veterans, saying: ‘I am very happy. You look at Courtney’s effort chasing to stop that attempt. That’s a really selfless act and that’s the kind of thing you want to see from those players.
Like I said, we want seasoned players to show that they are ready to dig deep. We saw a bit of that today, but it will be tested further against Australia next week. ”