Eddie Jones: Springboks were scared by the Islanders

Calling the shots

One of my abiding memories of working with the Springboks during the World Cup in 2007 was seeing some of the younger players return to the dressing room after their quarter-final victory over Fiji and openly admitting that they had been physically frightened – not by the forwards they had just encountered, but by the backs. It was not the sort of thing I ever expected to hear from a group of South African rugby men, who are not exactly shrinking violets when it comes to the confrontational side of the sport, but I could understand where they were coming from. Seru Rabeni? Kameli Ratuvou? Vilimoni Delasau? Believe me, I'd have been scared too.

The Fijians, along with their South Seas neighbours from Samoa and Tonga, are big; many of them weigh in at well over 100kg, which is pretty substantial in anyone's book. What is more, they run fast, usually in a dead straight line, irrespective of who might be in front of them. Oh, one last thing: they also play rugby with no thought whatsoever for their personal well-being.

Playing as the Pacific Islands, these people could do some damage to England at Twickenham this afternoon. Certainly, Martin Johnson and his coaching team will have to think very carefully how to approach the game, not least as it will be played under very different laws to those in force at the World Cup last year.

Back then, there was an obvious way for England, strong up front as they were, to play the two island teams in their pool, Samoa and Tonga. Aside from creating pressure at the scrum and line-out, they were able to maul and drive them off the field. Now, under the Experimental Law Variations, there is next to no value in setting up mauls, and the driving game has diminished.

Even the scrums are less dependable than they were a year ago, because the number of set-pieces varies wildly from match to match. So, England must decide.

Do they let Danny Cipriani off the leash at outside-half, go open and take it to the islanders with ball in hand? I can imagine their new attack coach, Brian Smith, being tempted by the challenge, despite the high-risk element attached to it. Or do they go for the strangulation option? That would involve a lot of emphasis on the line-out – particularly in contesting their opponents' ball – supported by an intelligent kicking game.

The latter option seems the most likely, but this too has its dangers. Kick loosely to a Rabeni or a Ratuvou, and you'll find the ball being run back at you at considerable velocity. If you're going to put boot to ball against these blokes, you have to do it with precision. England will need to mix up their kicks to deny their opponents space and prevent them developing momentum. Once the Islanders find some rhythm, they can be next to impossible to stop. I refer you again to that Fiji match in Marseilles, when, for about 20 minutes in the second half, the Boks were seriously at risk of being dumped out of the competition.

I'm delighted to see the Pacific Islands team here, playing high-quality fixtures that will, I hope, benefit the rugby economy in the South Seas.

The socio-economic realities of life in the islands makes it desperately difficult to build a thriving professional game there. If this kind of trip increases the profile of union in that part of the world and generates some new money into the bargain, it will help these incredibly gifted rugby communities go at least some of the way to fulfilling their vast potential.

It is possible that a touring side of this calibre will soon get close to beating a major rugby nation. I'm not sure they can do it this time round, but I am certain of this: the richer nations owe it to the game to help the islands with their development. If we don't, we will all be the poorer for our neglect.

Eddie Jones is Saracens director of rugby and you can see his side in action against Gloucester in the Guinness Premiership at Vicarage Road on Sunday 16 November, kick-off 3pm.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on