Jones still having nightmares over Bok loss
REACTION: England coach Eddie Jones hopes to put the pain of last year’s World Cup Final defeat to good use when his side face France in the climax of the year-end Nations Cup at Twickenham on Sunday.
Jones’ men were overpowered 32-12 by South Africa in Yokohama, the Springboks crushing England’s dreams of a second World Cup crown.
For Jones, it was a second World Cup final reverse after taking charge of his native Australia when they were beaten by England in the 2003 showpiece match in Sydney.
England, following an impressive semifinal win over reigning champions New Zealand in Japan, were many people’s favourites to win last year’s Final, something Jones believes may have contributed to their eventual defeat.
“I probably reflected on that World Cup final week every day,” Jones told reporters after naming his team to play France on Friday.
“When you lose a big final like that it stays with you for a long time.
“You never put it to bed. The result is what it is. We weren’t good enough in that World Cup final.”
“It doesn’t go away and you reflect and you think, ‘I should have done that, would that have made a difference?'”
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‘Didn’t attack the week’
But Jones believes the final of the Nations Cup, created after the COVID-19 pandemic led major southern hemisphere nations to cancel their tours of Europe, offers an England side featuring 13 survivors from the World Cup final to demonstrate their progress during the past 12 months.
“If you don’t learn from it you don’t get another opportunity to play in a Final, so we have got a great opportunity to show that we have learnt from that World Cup final,” he said.
“What we’ve noticed is that, in retrospect, we probably didn’t attack the week like we normally do. In the week of the World Cup final, we were probably more content about getting through the week.
“This week, we’ve had a real focus on attacking the game and where we can improve.”
France are the only team to have beaten England this year, defeating the eventual Six Nations champions 24-17 in their February tournament opener in Paris – the first match for Jones’ men since the World Cup Final.
The French, however, will arrive at Twickenham with a starting XV who have just 68 caps between them as a result of a player release agreement with the Top 14 clubs.
England’s run-on side, by contrast, boasts a record 813 caps and there are fears their powerful pack will snuff out any French flair at the set-piece.
More broadly, with defences dominant in the Nations Cup amid much tactical, there are concerns that Test rugby is becoming an increasingly dreary spectacle.
Lifelong cricket fan Jones reckoned trying to play attacking rugby right now was akin to bowling to Steve Smith, having seen the Australia star batsman in action in Birmingham last year.
Jones, however, stressed the tide would turn.
“His ability to control the bowler is fantastic and that’s where rugby is going,” said Jones of Smith.
“At the moment, defence is in the ascendancy but teams will work out how to attack rush defences and we’re in the process of developing our own attacking system to do that.”
Meanwhile, England wing Johnny May, who bucked the trend with a stunning length of the field try against Ireland at Twickenham last month, said: “Defences are getting smarter and players are more athletic.
“It’s a difficult challenge at the moment. But there are opportunities there. We are working on it and feel we can attack better.”