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SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Eddie Jones’ side must be ruthless and aim for a big win against Tonga

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Eddie Jones’ England team must be ruthless and aim for a big win against Tonga before taking on improved Australia.

  • Eddie Jones’ team kicks off their Fall Nations Series campaign against Tonga
  • It is the shape of England’s inevitable victory against Tonga that is important.
  • I like the selection, but again I liked the look of some of the team from last year.
  • Fall games against tier two nations are a test of the mentality of the greats
  • For England, the challenge is to produce their game A for a full 80 minutes.


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Let’s not stay on the fence, what matters is the way England inevitably triumphed against Tonga, the way they play and do their job.

I like the national team, but again I liked the look of some England teams around this time last year and they flattered themselves horribly by misleading with their negative approach.

These fall matches against level two nations are a test of the mindset of the greats because sadly these small nations struggle to get their best XV in the park and their preparation is limited.

England will beat Tonga, but it is the way they do it that will be judged

England will beat Tonga, but it is the way they do it that will be judged

World Rugby has to prioritize finding a solution to that; this disparity has not changed much in 50 years.

For England, the challenge is to produce their game A for a full 80 minutes, a week before they face improved Australia.

Tonga looks notably stronger than the team that scored 60 points last week against a young and experimental team from Scotland, but the score should be similar, in fact the margin should be even higher.

England must seek the greatest possible margin of victory in the best possible style. England and British rugby should never slavishly follow New Zealand, but one of the traits I have always admired about the All Blacks is their ruthlessness in eliminating far inferior teams.

For England, the challenge is to produce their game A for a full 80 minutes, a week before they face improved Australia (above)

For England, the challenge is to produce their game A for a full 80 minutes, a week before they face improved Australia (above)

For England, the challenge is to produce their game A for a full 80 minutes, a week before they face improved Australia (above)

Bad habits creep in if you start teasing an unassailable track, little mistakes that could be costly against Australia or South Africa later this month.

To stay alert, I always wanted to represent specific scenarios within the game itself. For example, the last five minutes before halftime are often crucial, well let’s see England challenge themselves to score at the edge of the break, even if they are under their own posts.

How many times have we seen England just kick the ball and run when the clock ticks over 40 minutes in recent seasons? Life irritates me.

Or maybe, say at minute 75, summon a group for a break and role play. We are 12 points behind in a World Cup semi-final and we need two converted attempts to win.

A gale is blowing, our top two goal kickers are injured, so let’s make sure to score those attempts under the posts. Is England good enough to play with such concentration and precision?

How many times have we seen England just kick the ball and run when the clock ticks over 40 minutes in recent seasons?  Life irritates me

How many times have we seen England just kick the ball and run when the clock ticks over 40 minutes in recent seasons?  Life irritates me

How many times have we seen England just kick the ball and run when the clock ticks over 40 minutes in recent seasons? Life irritates me

Goals lost? Of course I want to see dropped goals! One in half ideally.

The best teams train assiduously on how to exert supreme pressure in scrums to win penalties, so why not spend a little time practicing and then executing your drop goal drills?

Lost goals are “gifts” that you can help yourself with while the game is working out and match winners by dying in big tournaments. Become experts in them.

England’s play must be perfect, not because it must be perfect to defeat Tonga, but because a professional rugby player should never look for less. They must be 100 percent at lineouts, scrums, and restarts. Without errors.

On a slightly different tangent, there has recently been publicity that England is not a particularly smiling and ‘happy’ camp, largely due to behind-the-scenes coaching turnover and, indeed, player turnover.

It’s not how I would run a team, but I wouldn’t worry about it either. If England gets on a roll, the smiles and the breeze in its wake will return. Neither of these concerns were voiced when Eddie Jones and England won the Grand Slam in 2016 and then defeated Australia 3-0 in the series there.

Eddie Jones knows the carelessness against Tonga could come back and bite them when England take on the giants of the southern hemisphere later on.

Eddie Jones knows the carelessness against Tonga could come back and bite them when England take on the giants of the southern hemisphere later on.

Eddie Jones knows the carelessness against Tonga could come back and bite them when England take on the giants of the southern hemisphere later on.

Many great sports teams throughout history have thrived thanks to a bit of creative tension and, as we would say, plainly speaking, at least in some phases of their development.

Professional sports are not always a comfortable place.

Nobody appreciated the value of the excellent assistants more than I did, I was really blessed, but the bottom line is that the public is not so concerned about what happens behind the scenes.

The public sees this as Jones’ team. You can hire and fire, and smiling is not required!

What you do need to do, and I’ve been singing this song for a while, is get rid of all the distractions and make sure the media and England fans are wowed by rugby and little else.

This is how you put a smile on everyone’s face.

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