Friday 13 December 2019

Bullish Jones ready to give Azzurri 'a good hiding'

Scotland 9 England 15

England's Jack Nowell scores his side's second try. Photo: PA
England's Jack Nowell scores his side's second try. Photo: PA
England's Courtney Lawes and Scotland's Richie Gray compete for a line out ball. Photo: PA

Mick Cleary

From idling speed to fast-forward, Eddie Jones is intent on a rapid gearshift for England, declaring that he has already instructed his team to go out and "smack" Italy in Rome next Sunday, "give them a good hiding".

The tone is strident, the mood bullish, on the back of a morale-boosting win at Murrayfield. The play may have been fractured, the style turgid but there was an assurance in England's play in the closing stages that has encouraged Jones to put his foot down on the throttle.

Now that the Calcutta Cup has been claimed for the eighth year in succession, the new England head coach can set more ambitious parameters for his fledgling team.

"We control our own destiny," he said. "We want to go out there and smack Italy. I have told the boys that that is our aim - to go out there and give them a good hiding."

His brazen comments are designed to ignite his own players as well as stir up the opposition.

Jones operates best under pressure and demands that his players do so, too. Chutzpah is Jones' modus operandi, and he dismissed the notion that Saturday's pragmatic approach was in any way tedious.

"I tell you, mate, fans are pragmatic too," Jones said. "If we had tossed the ball around and got beat, say 17-16, then no one would be saying we played wonderful rugby. It is all about the winning. Fans like winning teams."

There was precious little overt evidence on offer at Murrayfield to suggest that England are capable of delivering on Jones' "give them a hiding" challenge.

England were slipshod at times, particularly at the breakdown, unable to generate much in the way of polished attack, their two fine tries notwithstanding.

There was a decent return from the sluggers up front. There was a commanding display from the No 8 Billy Vunipola, and an encouraging return to form for the tighthead Dan Cole. George Kruis was to the fore at line-out, driving and stretching for his early try.

James Haskell added his clout and replacement loosehead Mako Vunipola's deft out-the-back pass that teed up Jack Nowell's try was of real note. It is often said that only All Blacks can produce high-end skill, but there is plenty of such talent in the English game. All it needs is for it to be encouraged and drawn out.

"Every player needs to have a dream," Jones said. "As a coach, your job is to give them dreams."

England can prepare for Italy with clear heads, free of angst.

Scotland do not have such ease of mind. It is now 12 years since they scored a try in this fixture. They had their moments only to fluff the half-openings, and once again, the championship rises up ahead of them, crampons to the ready to climb up from this gloomy base camp.

England, meanwhile, have their eyes fixed on the mountain top. And with good reason.

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