Thursday 27 July 2017

'Nobody is going to die' - Eddie Jones responds to England's 'group of death' draw in the Rugby World Cup

KYOTO, JAPAN - MAY 10: Eddie Jones head coach of England attends a press conference after the Rugby World Cup Pool Draw at the Kyoto State Guest House on May 10, 2017 in Kyoto, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
KYOTO, JAPAN - MAY 10: Eddie Jones head coach of England attends a press conference after the Rugby World Cup Pool Draw at the Kyoto State Guest House on May 10, 2017 in Kyoto, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)

Duncan Bech

Eddie Jones joked that he will visit Japanese temples to "pray really hard" before embracing England's renewed presence in the World Cup's 'group of death'.

For a second consecutive time the 2003 champions have been drawn in the competition's most challenging pool, featuring France and Argentina and two qualifiers, most likely the USA and Samoa.

England crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage in 2015 following defeats by Wales and Australia, resulting in the dismissal of Jones' predecessor Stuart Lancaster.

And there is every danger of history repeating itself after the draw staged at the Kyoto State Guest House pitched them alongside two more heavyweights in a brutal Pool C.

Jones quipped "nobody is going to die" when it was put to him that England had been drawn in the group of death and, while he will be seeking divine intervention, he ultimately views the games as ideal preparation for realising the ambition of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup.

"I'm going to visit the temples because I need to pray. I need to pray really hard!" Jones said.

"You think it's difficult, but we're excited by it. It's not a a tough group, it's a good group. To win the World Cup you have to win seven games.

"We've got two very big games against France and Argentina so it's great preparation for getting to the final stages. We're looking forward to it.

"Australia showed in 2015 that the tough games helped them for the ones further ahead. Australia went past Ireland and Argentina in the knockout stage.

"My experience of the World Cup is that having two tough games is the best preparation.

"We want to win the World Cup and to do that we need to be well prepared and there are no better teams than France and Argentina."

Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie reacted to England's group demise in 2015 by removing Lancaster and appointing Jones and upon surveying the result of Wednesday's draw he declared "bring it on!".

"We know they're difficult games but it's a World Cup. Get on with it is what we need to do," Ritchie said.

"We need to get better. It's a tough draw but everybody will be looking at us as well. We'd better be well prepared. Bring it on!"

The draw for Japan 2019 has been far kinder to Wales, who have been matched alongside Australia, Georgia and two qualifiers, most likely Fiji and Canada.

"Pool C looks quite tough. We're reasonably happy to be in Pool D. It's better than 2015, anyway!" Wales head coach Warren Gatland said.

"Every group is going to have some tough teams in it, but from a Welsh perspective I'm happy how it has turned out.''

Ireland and Scotland will meet in Pool A, which also contains hosts Japan, in possibly the easiest group of the four that contains the only all-Six Nations showdown.

"I think it's very hard to assess where teams are going to be in two years' time," Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said.

"'We lost to Scotland recently so it's a mixed bag but I think it's incredibly exciting to draw the host nation in that the crowd, the enthusiasm and the interest in that game is going to be huge."

New Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend is already eagerly anticipating the meeting with Ireland.

''Ireland have been one of the most competitive and most improved sides over the past few years and a lot of that is to do with their quality of players and the influence of head coach Joe Schmidt," Townsend said.

Reigning champions New Zealand face South Africa and Italy in Pool B with head coach Steve Hansen insisting there are a number of credible challengers to the All Blacks' crown.

"England are one of our main rivals but South Africa, Australia and France are improving sides. By the time World Cup comes around, any one of those sides could win," Hansen said.

"It's knockout rugby so you can't afford to lose. A number of teams could beat another team on a bad day.

"England are going to be a force. They're getting better and better all the time, but they're in a really strong pool."

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