What to make of All Blacks test squad named to face England. Video / Sky Sport
By Liam Napier in London
Eddie Jones has reiterated the intent for England to go after the All Blacks at Twickenham and underlined his view that belief is the bedrock to achieving successive victories.
was a time when the All Blacks held a mental edge against most northern nations.
Four losses this season has eroded that fear factor, with the All Blacks in the process of salvaging their turbulent campaign following six straight wins.
Jones inspired England to victory in the World Cup semifinal three years ago in Yokohama, the last time these old foes collided.
After revealing his team, which features two changes to the side that defeated Japan 52-13 last week, Jones offered an insight into the no fear mentality he is attempting to again impart on England this weekend.
“It’s always in the head, mate, it’s always in the head,” Jones said. “You either make a decision whether you got at them or you’re going to be a spectator.
“You’ve got to truly believe you will expose their weaknesses. I know with our team we believe we can win. We believe we’ve got strength that we can maximise against New Zealand. We believe there are weaknesses we can expose.
“When you’re playing against a really good team, sometimes you look at them, and you think ‘phew, how are we going to beat those blokes?’ And the environment you create has to be thinking about, what are the opportunities, where can we take them, what can we do to them, having an approach that we’re chasing them, they’re not chasing us. And sometimes you get it right, and sometimes you get it wrong.”
The relevance of the 2019 semifinal has been debated, dismissed and acknowledged this week in London. While the teams have evolved since, with the respective coaching staff changing significantly, the All Blacks and England matchday squads both feature 12 survivors from that occasion.
For those returning England players that result will enhance belief. And for those All Blacks present that crushing night it is sure to stoke the fires for vengeance.
“The Yokohama game they were a different team,” Jones said. “They played differently than they do now. It’s more about our players understanding what it takes to beat New Zealand. It takes a massive effort to beat New Zealand, our players understand that. We’re prepared for it. We’re going to go after them.
“We expect the best version of New Zealand. It’s their last game of the tour, they want to finish the tour well, it’s been a tough old year for them, they’ve got a lot of criticism, ended up winning the Rugby Championship so they did well and it’s how much they can get their mind on the job.
“But the history of New Zealand rugby is that once they’ve been beaten by someone, they want to right that and this is obviously the next opportunity they’ve got so they’ve got to put pictures of being with the family on the beach, water-skiing, all those beautiful things in New Zealand out of their heads. Sometimes that can be hard but they’re a good enough team to do that.
“I’ve coached against New Zealand since 2000 I think and they never lack motivation, and they particularly don’t against England, who we know they probably don’t like a great deal, so I’m sure they’ll be highly motivated.”
While Jones projects a typically confident image this week he has also frequently cited England’s historical struggles against the All Blacks — perhaps with a view to giving himself an out should his side fail to replicate their last success in front of an expectant, sell-out crowd.
“They’ve won their last six tests and the record is England have won 22 per cent against New Zealand,” Jones said. “They are changing their attack a little bit but maybe that is a consequence of where they are in their redevelopment phase or renovation phase … I know you’re not allowed to say re-building in New Zealand rugby, like you’re not allowed to say it in England.
“We are in the same sort of phase. The teams are undergoing some change and finding the best way. They have had a change in their coaching staff. I think Joe Schmidt’s expression is, ‘vertical rugby’ and they are playing a bit more vertically than they were, horizontally. But they might change again for us.”
Jones also paid tribute to Owen Farrell, who like All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, is preparing to reach a century for England at their spiritual home.
“Owen is probably the most ego-less player I’ve met. He just gets on with the job. He’s a 100 per cent team man, doesn’t want any fuss about his 100 caps, doesn’t want any assistance. He understands the job to do this week. He’s not been any different at all.”
Ethan de Groot, Codie Taylor, Tyrel Lomax, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock, Scott Barrett, Dalton Papali’i, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, Caleb Clarke, Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Mark Telea, Beauden Barrett. Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, George Bower, Nepo Laulala, Shannon Frizell, Hoskins Sotutu, TJ Perenara, David Havili, Anton Lienert-Brown.
Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Sam Simmonds, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola, Jack van Poortvliet, Marcus Smith, Jonny May, Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi, Jack Nowell, Freddie Steward. Reserves: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Will Stuart, David Ribbans, Jack Willis, Ben Youngs, Guy Porter, Henry Slade