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Steve Borthwick v Eddie Jones: The headline of Tokyo face-off

SPOTLIGHT: It is the master versus the pupil when Japan and England face off next week.

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Steve Borthwick has warned his England side not to underestimate a Japan team coached by mentor Eddie Jones ahead of their Test in Tokyo in the opening round of te mid-year internationals, on June 22.

England have won all of their previous internationals against Japan, including a 34-12 victory at last year’s World Cup in France.

Former England coach Jones was then in charge of his native Australia but he resigned soon afterwards, after just two wins from nine Tests in his second spell at the helm, including an early World Cup exit.

Jones, 64, guided England to their first Grand Slam in 13 years in 2016 and took them to the 2019 World Cup Final in Japan, where they were beaten by South Africa.

But he was sacked after seven years in the England hot seat in December 2022 following a lean spell and replaced by Borthwick.

The former England captain knows Jones well after working with the outspoken coach at Saracens and England, as well as during the Australian’s first stint in Japan.

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“What we expect next week is a really well-coached Japan side,” Borthwick said at Twickenham, after announcing a 36-man touring squad for Tests against Japan and New Zealand.

“I’ve worked with Eddie. That’s what we’re preparing for.”

“What I’m saying to the players is focus on what we’re doing as a team and what we can control,” he added.

“Then I’m looking for these Test match animals to go out when we play on a Saturday in these big arenas like in Tokyo.”

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Borthwick will need a new starting fly-half on tour as he will be without the veteran Owen Farrell, ineligible after deciding to continue his club career in France, and the injured George Ford.

His choice will come down to one of two Smiths – Northampton rising star Fin Smith and the more experienced Marcus Smith of Harlequins.

The 22-year-old Fin Smith, with two England caps, impressed in Northampton’s thrilling 25-21 win over Bath in the Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday.

“I think you’ve seen the progression of Fin in a relatively short time, with consistent performances he’s put in for Northampton, marshalling his team around the pitch, in hard-fought games,” said Borthwick. “In tough environments he’s performed.”

But Borthwick added: “I think Marcus is a player who’s an experienced international. To have two players like that at our disposal is terrific and I’m looking forward to working with them.”

The England coach said his players had been preparing as much as possible for conditions in Japan ahead of their match in Tokyo on June 22.

“We’ve worked over the last two weeks to try and replicate heated conditions indoors. It’s going to be very humid in Japan with a very wet ball and those are the conditions we’ve tried to replicate.”

After the Japan leg, England will head to New Zealand to play two Tests against the All Blacks.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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