The areas where Georgia could cause England problems
PRE-MATCH BUILD-UP: England defence coach John Mitchell said Tuesday that the Six Nations champions need to be “adaptable” ahead of their year-end Nations Cup opener against Georgia at Twickenham this weekend.
The former All Black coach also backed comments from head coach Eddie Jones last week suggesting that England might play nine, instead of the usual eight, forwards against the muscular Georgians.
“It’s something that’s really important,” Mitchell told a conference call when asked about Jones’ idea.
“It actually helps players within the squad understand that around any point in time, you might have to be adaptable.”
A key concern is the number of red cards being flourished at top level, notably in New Zealand’s 22-24 loss to Australia in Brisbane last weekend when All Black prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi and the Wallabies’ Lachie Swinton were both sent off for dangerous high tackles.
“You only have to look at the number of cards were presented say in the last Rugby Championship [Tri Nations] match between New Zealand and Australia – there’s so many situations now where you are without players in positions and people have to be adaptable, just in case that situation occurs for us.”
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‘Pride and privilege’
England should beat Georgia comfortably – the Lelos rarely face leading nations outside World Cups and were hammered 48-7 by Scotland last month.
But the Georgians could cause England problems at the scrum.
“Georgia is going to be a really tough game,” said Mitchell who was the All Blacks’ head coach when they lost to a Wallaby team guided by Jones in a 2003 World Cup semifinal.
“Obviously there are key areas around the scrum and we’re looking forward to that challenge.
“The pride and the privilege of playing for England, especially at home, is important and we want to make sure we continue to put smiles on people’s faces during this tough time for the country,” he added, with ongoing coronavirus restrictions meaning this will be the latest major rugby match in Europe to be played behind closed doors.
“We start a new tournament and we want to win it and build on our previous success, but that all comes down to making sure we keep our focus on our basics and looking to get better.”
Jones, who deployed an extra forward against Georgia when coach of Japan prior to the 2015 World Cup, said last week: “Tradition says you have eight forwards and seven backs. When Barcelona beat Man United in the Champions League in 2009, they played the false nine.
“There’s no reason why you can’t do that in rugby and play a false No.10 or a false wing.
“These are ideas that we take seriously and see how we can improve the side,” he added.
“Maybe the Georgian game is an opportunity to play a different way,” he said