Jones to stick with Smith and Farrell despite Argentina defeat

‘If they’re able to play 16 games together, they’ll have a good understanding’: Stubborn Eddie Jones DETERMINED to stick with a double act of Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell despite shock defeat against Argentina

  • Eddie Jones backs the pairing of Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell to come good
  • The duo were on-field together as England suffered a shock loss to Argentina 
  • But Jones is ‘100 per cent’ sure that the duo will have more luck in Japan clash 

England will be ordered to unleash a furious backlash against Japan at Twickenham on Saturday, in response to their shock defeat by Argentina three days ago.

Eddie Jones knows that his side need to deliver a stirring display and result against Japan, before daunting encounters with mighty New Zealand and South Africa later in the month.

Asked whether he would prefer an emotional reaction from his squad to the setback against the Pumas, or a calm and measured one, Jones said: ‘I want us to be angry — and play with a certain sort of anger.

Eddie Jones has backed Marcus Smith (L) and Owen Farrell to come good as a pairing

Jones said the duo will ‘start to read each other more’ in their remaining 16 games together

‘In a lot of ways, I’m really pleased with how we played against Argentina. We dominated territory and possession, but we just weren’t good enough at converting that pressure into points. To do that, we need to be a bit more aggressive and assertive in the way we attack. I’ve got no doubt that we will do that this week.

‘I want the anger to be under control, obviously. We know Japan always have a fast start — they always want to score early and set the tempo of the game. So we have to meet fire with fire early.’

In the aftermath of Sunday’s upset against Argentina, which was England’s fifth defeat in nine Tests this year, a host of pundits called for an either-or decision to be made between Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell at fly-half. But Jones appears to remain fully committed to selecting the pair as a 10-12 double act.

When pressed on whether he still has confidence that the combination can work, he said: ‘Yeah, 100 per cent. We’re four games in. We’ve got another 12 games to the World Cup. If they are able to play 16 games together, they’ll have a good understanding and they’ll start to read each other more.

‘When you look at the opportunities we missed, they were small cohesion problems that improve by playing together.

England’s stars stand bemused after their shock 29-30 defeat to Argentina on Sunday

‘It was also the first time Manu Tuilagi has played with those two and he hadn’t played for three or four weeks.’

Jones is a sworn advocate of Farrell as an international playmaker and captain. And he offered an endorsement of the veteran’s impact against Argentina, after he recovered from a head injury to lead out the home side. ‘Owen did a good job,’ Jones added. ‘His goal-kicking was impeccable. His defence was good and we created enough opportunities in attack to win the game. He played his part there.

‘His leadership of the team was such that we never looked like we lacked poise in the game. We always looked like we were capable of winning the game. That is a reflection of the captain.’

While Jones was as bullish as ever about England’s prospects of short-term success, he did acknowledge that future planning may have contributed to their demise last weekend.

Jones took ‘full responsibility’ for the defeat and said the message to his team ‘wasn’t clear’ 

Having taken ‘full responsibility’ for the defeat, the head coach said: ‘Whenever your team doesn’t play to the potential that you want, there’s always something in the message you’re giving the team that’s not quite clear.

‘When I reflect on the game, we’ve been looking at a number of long-term strategies we’re trying to employ to get ourselves ready for the World Cup, and maybe our focus wasn’t tight enough on the Argentina game.

‘At times, we lacked a bit of energy, particularly in attack. Maybe we were just over-thinking it and that’s entirely my fault.’

However, when asked if the shock to the system would force a reappraisal of his and England’s outlook, he insisted: ‘No, not at all. There are a cluster of teams at the top of world rugby, we want to break that cluster and to do that we have to have a number of ways to play the game.

‘These next 11 months are (about) getting enough equipment in our armoury so that we can play any way.’

Jones has called on his side to put in an improved performance when they Japan

There may be different equipment in the starting XV to face Japan, with Jonny May seemingly a strong contender for a recall, as England strive to pose a high-octane threat.

‘When you see the side, you’ll be delighted that there’s enough pace there,’ said Jones, in response to concerns raised about the tempo of England’s attacks. ‘We need pace in the back line to counter Japan’s threats.’

Meanwhile, the RFU have confirmed that defence coach Anthony Seibold will leave his post after this series, to take charge of Manly Sea Eagles in Australian rugby league.

Jones has opted to fill the vacancy with another cross-code compatriot, Brett Hodgson, who is in camp with England now — shadowing Seibold this month before replacing him.

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