Murrayfield 'the perfect place' for England to go next, claims Lawes

By Sports Desk February 05, 2020

Courtney Lawes believes Saturday's clash with Scotland at Murrayfield offers the England team the perfect platform to prove their maturity.

England slumped to a 24-17 defeat to France in their opening Six Nations encounter in Paris on Sunday, with Eddie Jones' side failing to score a point in the opening half.

Jonny May scored two tries for the visitors to set up the chance of a grandstand finish, but Les Bleus ultimately held firm.

Scotland, meanwhile, were defeated by Ireland in their opener, and Lawes – who is the second-most capped player in Jones' squad – is relishing the trip to Edinburgh, with the Calcutta Cup at stake.

"It's the perfect place to go for us, because there is going to be some adversity without a shadow of a doubt," he told BBC Radio 5Live.

"It will be great for the maturity of our squad, and the players in it and the leadership group to show what we can learn from the weekend to take into this game.

"They don't really like us there but it's something we kind of like to embrace and get out there and play some fiery rugby."

Lawes also insisted it is on England's leaders to take responsibility on the pitch, as they aim to work out a way to prosper when not necessarily on top in a game.

"We have a leadership group in place and they are responsible for making decisions on the field. You don't want too many people talking, especially when you are under pressure," he said.

"Owen [Farrell] has got his role as skipper, and then we as lieutenants – or whatever you want to call it – have our role trying to figure out how he can do his role best.

"We know we are good when we get the game plan right and we are executing. But now we need to work on when things aren't going to plan, where we go to next.

"We need to be better at identifying where we are struggling and adapting to that situation to get momentum back where you are struggling to get anything from the referee, or a bounce of a ball, how can you gain back that control.

"We have some serious experience. [Head coach] Eddie [Jones] has given us the opportunity to be a part of that, and it is something we need to step up and do."

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    England coach Eddie Jones has signed a contract extension through until the end of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

    Jones, 60, took the helm of England in late 2015 and has been rewarded for what has been a successful stint in charge.

    The Australian has overseen 42 wins in 54 Tests as England coach, including leading them to last year's Rugby World Cup final, where they were beaten by South Africa.

    Jones has re-signed through until the end of the Rugby World Cup in 2023, which is due to be hosted by France.

    "The extension is a great honour for me, but in the current environment, it is only right to acknowledge what a difficult time the world is facing," the England coach said.

    "We are all looking forward to a time when we can get back to playing rugby and use the sport as a force for good in bringing people back together.

    "I never thought coming here four years ago I would be doing a second four years, but the circumstances are right.

    "Obviously it is important for the team that we keep improving and my focus will be solely on that."

    Jones' 78 per cent win ratio is the best of any England coach in the nation's history.

    During his tenure, Jones has led England to two Six Nations titles - including a Grand Slam in 2016 - a 3-0 series victory in Australia and an 18-match unbeaten run.

    Jones added: "I am excited about raising the standards again. We have a great team. We set out four years ago to be the best team in the world and unfortunately we missed that by 80 minutes.

    "Now we want to be the team that is remembered as being the greatest team the game has ever seen. It's a big ambition but I believe we are capable of doing it.

    "We have players with an enhanced reputation, we have a team that is expected to do well, so it's a great opportunity for us to keep moving forward."

  • Coronavirus: England players in 'ongoing discussions' with ECB over central contracts Coronavirus: England players in 'ongoing discussions' with ECB over central contracts

    Representatives for England players will continue talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) over how to help the game during the coronavirus pandemic, though they have not received any demands from their employers to take a pay cut.

    Having already revealed this week that they will provide a £61million support package to help ease the financial issues caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the ECB announced on Wednesday measures to reduce employee salaries as they aim to protect jobs in the long term.

    Chief executive Tom Harrison has agreed to take a 25 per cent cut, while members of the executive management and team board will see their wages lowered by 20 per cent.

    A report by ESPNcricinfo earlier in the day suggested the England squad had so far declined an invitation to follow suit, though all-rounder Ben Stokes called the story “utter lies" on Twitter.

    In a statement, the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) said discussions for both the men's and women's team continue with the ECB over "all aspects of the game", including contracts.

    "Regarding the England players, both men and women, separate and ongoing discussions are taking place between the ECB and the management boards of both the Team England Player Partnership (TEPP) and the England Women's Player Partnership (EWPP), which respectively represent these players," the statement read.

    "Contrary to media speculation in communication this week, the ECB confirmed to centrally contracted players that there would not be any demands placed on England players to take any wage reductions to their central contracts.

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    Limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan made clear he is “extremely willing to help” amid the global crisis, with the English season not scheduled to start until May 28 at the earliest.

    "In the extremely uncertain times at the moment where nobody seems to have any answers about the actual impact it will have on international cricket, English cricket, county cricket - I'm open to absolutely everything," Morgan said.

    "I'm very aware of how serious the situation is, I'm very aware that everybody will be affected from top to toe within the game and every sport, so I'm open to helping when and where I can."

  • Coronavirus: Behind closed doors England games could lift nation, says Morgan Coronavirus: Behind closed doors England games could lift nation, says Morgan

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    Morgan and his team-mates are, like most other elite athletes around the globe, in a state of flux at present as the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic have the knock-on effect of bringing sporting schedules to a halt.

    The England and Wales Cricket Board has postponed the start of its domestic season until May 28 and on Tuesday announced a £61million relief package to help the game withstand the financial impact of coronavirus.

    England have Test series planned against West Indies and Pakistan over the coming months, with the latter joining Australia in facing Morgan's side in white-ball series.

    Morgan joked that playing before empty stands would not be much different to some of his experiences in the County Championship, but he feels televised sport could provide a rallying point for the general public.

    "I've played county cricket for a long time and I've played Test cricket in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It’s the exact same, I would say," said the 33-year-old, who also underlined his intention to skipper England at the next two T20 World Cups, even if this year's edition in Australia is postponed.

    "From a very serious point of view, if medical experts came and advised us that it was okay to play behind closed doors and it was on TV, I think that would be a huge step forward for the game.

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    Asked whether such events would be good for morale in the country, he replied: "Yes, I think it would."

    An enforced lay-off has been usefully timed in one respect for Morgan, whose wife gave birth to the couple's first child, Leo, three weeks ago.

    "We've sort of been preoccupied with looking after the baby," he said. "We've been isolated for a bit longer than everyone else.

    "I've been bunkered away for a while and haven't been under pressure to go off and play cricket, which is really nice.

    "In between that reading some books, watching some TV shows. Sleep, but in very short periods."

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