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England gets confidence boost after win over South Africa

Author
Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Sunday, 4 November 2018, 2:13p.m.
England have won against South Africa one week ahead of facing the All Blacks. (Photo / Photosport)

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Eddie Jones walked into the Twickenham changing rooms after England scraped past the Springboks and told his men he "can't wait" to challenge the All Blacks next week.

Given the close nature of this tense 12-11 victory, the rust England displayed and their many areas for concern, it was a rather strange pronouncement of confidence, not least because those in South Africa would argue Owen Farrell was fortunate not to be penalised in the final play.

"I was thinking I hope he doesn't penalise us," Jones said of Farrell's hit on Boks replacement Andre Esterhuizen, one which could have given Handre Pollard another chance to steal victory. "It was a good, solid tackle."

"Now you can get cited for something you did at a party when you were 15 so anything could happen."

With Jones, the fast talking Australian, nothing is ever predictable; nothing ever stays on script.

"We've got New Zealand next week. We can't wait, mate," he said. "They're all sitting at the Lensbury [hotel] drinking cups of tea, maybe having some scones, saying 'we'll take these guys'. They'll be confident. We can't wait to get 'em."

Righto, Eddie.

While England's defence, now led by John Mitchell, improved dramatically throughout this contest, and they eventually exposed the Boks on the edges, overall it was far from convincing.

In fact, England's inexperienced forward pack was completely outplayed in the first half. The Boks squandered chance after chance, and in the end England relied solely on Farrell's boot, with South Africa scoring the only try.

Jones is missing 16 players through injury and suspension but one must also consider this was not the same Boks team who defeated the All Blacks, having been stripped of five European-based players with this test played outside the designated window.

Dynamic halfback Faf de Klerk, watching from the stands, is but one who would have made a major difference.

Jones, though, was only in a mood to shell praise on his team.

Asked if he had seen enough to believe England could beat the All Blacks, Jones responded emphatically: "100 per cent," he said. "We've had three training runs, they've been together for three months. Understand that.

"To put together a cohesive performance like that, particularly defensively, is absolutely first-class. I think the players deserve enormous credit. We played some of the big moments really well which allowed us to win the game.

"When you get in those arm wrestles someone is going to give. We didn't give. We hung in there long enough, and when young guys do that it's a really good sign of their future in test match rugby.

"The most important thing is what we do next.

"New Zealand is a different kettle of fish to the Springboks. They play the game differently. They want the game to be an athletic contest. We won't be wearing singlets and running shorts out there. It will be a proper game of rugby so we'll just wait and see.

"To beat New Zealand you've got to be unbelievably disciplined. You've got to understand their weaknesses so we'll start that process on Sunday night and we'll be ready to play on Saturday. How confident we are it doesn't really matter."

This is a performance England can build from, sure. Jones may also welcome back injured lock Courtney Lawes, and midfielder Manu Tuilagi.

But whether a week is long enough to fix potentially crippling issues at the scrum; defending the rolling maul and the ill-discipline problems surrounding the likes of Maro Itoje, yellow carded for cynically killing the ball, is debatable.

In the first meeting between the two heavyweights since 2014, England may also need to create tries to overcome the All Blacks.

"It's not always scoring points that wins you games defence can do that too," Rotorua-born English co-captain Dylan Hartley said. "There were a couple of moments we were under the pump but we came out the other side which was really rewarding, especially when we went down to 14 men I thought we managed that period really well.

"That's testament to the leadership group and composure on the field."

 

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