England eye 'real' Tests after Tonga rout
REACTION: Eddie Jones praised his new-look England team’s attitude after they ran in 11 tries to thrash Tonga 69-3 in their year-end opener at Twickenham on Saturday.
Ben Youngs, Jamie George and Jonny May grabbed two tries apiece with further scores for Adam Radwan, Maro Itoje, Marcus Smith, Jamie Blamire and debutant Alex Mitchell as England claimed their largest win since 2004.
The coach, Jones, had shaken up his squad with veterans George Ford and Billy and Mako Vunipola omitted to blood new talent before the 2023 World Cup.
The Australian was criticised for playing bland rugby as England finished fifth in the 2021 Six Nations and conceded a record 121 points.
Although the hosts led comfortably against Tonga, they turned on the style following Viliami Fine’s red card with four tries in the final 10 minutes.
“They were prepared to put in the effort when it probably wasn’t needed, which is good,” said Jones.
“The second half was one of those tricky 40 minutes where you know the result’s not in the mix and you’ve got to dig deep and find a bit more to play hard.”
England has showpiece Tests to come against Australia and world champions South Africa later this month as Jones prepares for the next World Cup in France.
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Mitchell and Mark Atkinson made their international debuts and the relative newcomers Smith, Freddie Steward, Radwan, George Furbank and Alex Dombrandt earned caps.
England did not let captain Owen Farrell’s absence due to a positive COVID-19 test affect their performance, with Furbank replacing him at fly-half at short notice.
“We saw the mindset of being aggressive in attacking the opportunities,” added Jones.
“The mechanics will be a constant fine-tuning and the only time you need to see that at its best is when we play the seventh game of the World Cup.”
Radwan opened the scoring in the corner in the third minute for his fourth try in two Tests after notching a debut hat-trick against Canada in July.
England’s relentless pressure forced more penalties and bore fruit as George forced his way over following a rolling maul before May finished off a slick passing move.
Tonga have endured a difficult 2021, with many of their players unavailable due to COVID-related travel restrictions, and their task became harder when Solomone Kata was sin-binned for taking out May in the air.
Itoje punished the under-strength Tongans after Ellis Genge broke through weak tackles and Youngs added a fifth try just before half-time.
No sooner had Kata returned after the interval than Walter Fifita was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.
Youngs made Tonga pay, stealing the ball from a scrum and streaking clear for his second score of the game.
May grabbed a second try in the 60th minute before referee Craig Evans sent off Fine for an elbow into Smith’s face.
Four late England tries followed as the floodgates opened in the rain, with George scoring another try following a rolling maul.
Slade turned on the style by piercing the demoralised Tongan defence and setting up substitute Smith.
Blamire added the 10th score before Mitchell scored a debut try just before full-time.