Eddie Jones believes England made their task much harder for themselves by scoring inside the opening three minutes of their comeback victory over Japan, with the players allowing themselves to be sucked into believing that it would be a simple walkover victory.
Instead, Japan fought back with two tries of their own in a dominant first-half display that threatened the biggest upset England have suffered in their history, having not been beaten by a side outside the top 10 of the world rankings.
Jones responded to the tries by Ryoto Nakamura and the impressive Michael Leitch by throwing talisman Owen Farrell on at half-time, which helped them score three tries of their own and 25 unanswered points to secure an eventually comfortable 35-15 victory – though it did not come without its scares.
“We wanted a game that would test us and we put out a different team and different combinations to see how players were combining in different positions,” Jones said afterwards. “We were tested and probably got seduced by the game in the first couple of minutes, scoring an easy try, and the players subconsciously think it is going to be easy and we knocked off a bit in a our effort and attitude which is disappointing. But I thought our second half response was excellent.
“It was about getting our effort and attitude better and a couple of technical things.”
Such was Japan’s first half domination that they headed for the changing rooms at the break with a five-point lead, 69 per cent possession and a massive 77 per cent territory. England, on the other hand, were once again falling foul of the referee, with New Zealander Paul Williams penalising them seven times to Japan’s one.
“ You cant have more than that and be five points ahead,” Jones noted, arguing that despite the dreadful showing it left them well in the contest. “We were actually in a pretty good position and we just needed to find the right way to play in the second half and Japan is a difficult side to play if you haven’t played against them before.”
It proved a poignant day for Jones given that three years ago it was he that was leading Japan to history at the Rugby World Cup, becoming the first team to win three pool matches yet miss out on qualification for the knockout stages. Having been largely credited with turning around Japanese rugby’s fortunes – particularly by the players he coached – the Australian took pride in seeing how far Japan have come on the world stage.
“I was thinking about it this morning, the first time I brought Japan to Georgia, we played against Georgia and Romania,” Jones added. “Now Japan gets to play the All Blacks, England. It’s a proper rugby country now and the performance today only reinforces that. It’s something to be proud of.”
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