Jones eyes fast start with improved England mindset in Australia series decider

By Sports Desk July 14, 2022

Eddie Jones implored his England side to be "even better" in the Test series decider against Australia, where he insisted the mindsets of his players will be vital.

England ended a four-match losing streak by defeating Australia 25-17 in Brisbane to level the three-Test series, teeing up a winner-takes-all decider in Sydney on Saturday.

The tourists have won four of their past five games in Oceania, having done so just once in their previous 12 away matches against teams from that continent.

Jack van Poortvliet impressed in the second Test but has been replaced by Danny Care, though coach Jones suggested the decision is tactical.

"We've got to be even better. And it's all about the mindset of the players," Jones told Sky Sports.

"Physically we're really good, but the players have got to attune themselves to how important the start is. We're aiming to get that right with our boys.

"We've had a really good week. We were pretty battered after the Brisbane Test, so we didn't train until Tuesday but we had a good session and an even better session on Wednesday.

"We've got a younger team again, but they're all up for the challenge, and some of our old players have come back, like the Vunipolas, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jonny Hill are coming back to their best, so it's a good team we've got in place and we're looking forward to the challenge of winning the series.

"It's a tactical decision [Care for Van Poortvliet]. We feel that JVP will handle the latter part of the game really well, and that's where the game's going to be won and lost.

"And the first part of the game with the New Zealand referee Paul Williams is probably going to be a lot of quick ruck ball, and that's where Danny is at his absolute best.

"So we're just trying to maximise the strengths of each of those two players – JVP was magnificent last week."

England will be without Sam Underhill and Maro Itoje after the pair suffered concussions in the second Test, while Tom Curry has returned home after sustaining the same injury.

Ollie Chessum and Lewis Ludlam have been introduced to replace Underhill and Itoje, and Jones has little concern the pair will slot straight into the team.

"[Ludlam] has energy. He works really hard on and off the ball, and he's also a very good communicator on the field, so whilst we'll miss Sam and Tom Curry, we won't lose anything with Lewis," Jones added.

"Maro's been one of those guys that has been in nearly every Test team I've picked in the time I've been here.

"So we'll miss him but Chessum's a good young player, he's been training really well, he was part of the very successful Leicester Tigers team and he'll enjoy the opportunity."

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    England head coach Eddie Jones remains bullish about the side's future despite Saturday's poor 27-13 loss to South Africa rounding out their worst calendar year since 2008.

    The loss at Twickenham means the 2019 World Cup runners-up lost six of 12 Tests in 2022, managing only one win from four games during their autumn campaign.

    Jones' side finished with a 2-3 record in the Six Nations at the start of the year, while earlier this month they lost to Argentina for the first time since 2009.

    England were barely at the races on Saturday, with tries to Kurt-Lee Arendse and Eben Etzebeth lifting the Springboks to a 27-6 lead before Henry Slade's late consolation score with Thomas du Toit red carded for a no arms tackle.

    "We want to win," Jones told reporters. “We are judged by results but I feel there is growth in the team which wasn't evident today.

    "We don't want to get beat by a big score to South Africa and don't want to have the worst record since 2008 so it is a problem but I accept full responsibility for that.

    "Obviously on results we are not happy but I feel like we are building a really good base to have a really good go at the World Cup, a really good go.

    "A number of young players got great experience today and they'll come back better players for that. We’ve got other players coming back to form, some of our more senior players and we're not far away. We need to develop consistently. Test match rugby is all about consistency."

    Jones said that "nothing seemed to go right" against the Springboks, who beat England in the 2019 World Cup final.

    The loss comes after England thrashed Japan 52-13 a fortnight ago, a win followed by last week's thrilling 25-25 draw with New Zealand at Twickenham where the side crossed three times in the final eight minutes.

    "I think it is a bit of a watershed game for us and we came into the game with high expectations on how we wanted to play on the back of Japan and New Zealand," Jones said.

    "In this game South Africa were a bit too tough in the scrum and the air and I know where we have to improve.

    "Are we moving in the right direction towards the World Cup? Yes we are. I don't care what other people think. Obviously, we are disappointed with our performance but there are 11 months to the World Cup and I have no doubt we will rise to the occasion.

    "We just didn't fire a shot as we wanted today. You have to win contests against the Springboks and we didn't win the air or the set piece. We lost two of the key contests and we have to improve in those areas."

  • Shaw: England extra motivated after Wales' Euro 2016 celebrations Shaw: England extra motivated after Wales' Euro 2016 celebrations

    Luke Shaw says England are extra motivated heading into their World Cup clash with Wales after their opponents wildly celebrated the Three Lions' exit from Euro 2016.

    An infamous video circulated following England's embarrassing last-16 defeat to Iceland six and a half years ago showing Wales' players lapping up their fierce rivals' demise.

    Wales surpassed expectations by making it to the semi-finals of that competition, despite losing to England in the group stage, but they have had less success at Qatar 2022.

    The Dragons require a victory against England at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium if they are to avoid a group-stage exit and must hope the United States and Iran play out a draw elsewhere.

    A four-goal win for Wales against their neighbours on Tuesday would also be enough, but they have not so much as avoided defeated against England in their past six meetings.

    Shaw, who played a full part in England's 6-2 win over Iran and goalless draw with the USA, believes the scenes from 2016 will add more spice to an already feisty fixture.

    "I think you could say that," Shaw said. "But our motivation in itself has to be at its highest level. We are at the World Cup. We have great aims for what we want to achieve.

    "We have to have the maximum motivation at every game. I don't think there's any more motivation than what we have already. 

    "It wasn't nice. I don't want to dwell too much on that. I want to focus on what we do on the pitch. We can say things in interviews and I'd rather do our talking on the pitch."

    Asked if England's players would consider recording similar scenes of celebrating should they knock out Wales, Shaw said: "I think we are a respectful group.

    "We do things in the right way. That's the example Gareth [Southgate] wants to set. We are fully behind that. We are fully respectful.

    "I think their motivation is going to be extremely high. They are going to give everything to win. It's not an easy game. But we need to focus on what we do."

    England will advance to the knockout stage if they avoid a heavy loss to Wales, though Southgate's side will be targeting a victory to make certain of top spot in Group B.

    Speaking ahead of England's first ever World Cup match against a fellow British side, Southgate said: "We have got to play well. 

    "We are going to play an opponent that is wounded and, like everybody else, desperate to beat the English. We've got to play an intelligent game, play well and match their spirit.

    "I would be very disappointed if someone says their players will want it more than ours. I'd be asking questions about what we stand for and what we have been for five years."

    England have lost their third and final group-stage game in just two of their 14 participations at the World Cup (W7 D5), doing so against Spain in 1950 and Belgium in 2018.

  • Messi rides to the rescue, but shaky Argentina's World Cup dream looks a fantasy too far Messi rides to the rescue, but shaky Argentina's World Cup dream looks a fantasy too far

    Ghosts everywhere. In the stands, where the spectre of Diego Maradona was waving his fists, wondering how Argentina could put in such a vapid performance.

    On the pitch, where the shadows of Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain were sprinting through the middle, looking for a pass or clearing a path for Lionel Messi.

    The ghosts of Argentina's past haunted them for large parts of Saturday's game against Mexico, as the present almost became a living nightmare.

    Lionel Scaloni's team were in dire danger of heading out of this World Cup after two games, the champions of South America last year vulnerable to a humbling on the global stage, until a flash of Messi magic changed everything.

    A swish of that left boot from 25 yards, and the ball zipped into the bottom-right corner. It had to be him.

    On the night Messi matched Maradona's Argentina record of 21 World Cup appearances, he also moved level with El Diego on eight goals in his career at the finals, two behind national team record holder Gabriel Batistuta. For Messi, those World Cup goals have all come in the group stage, something he came to Qatar to change and still might.

    Losing to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday was bad enough for Argentina, but at least there would be a reaction against the Mexicans. Perhaps it might be the spur they needed, and perhaps it could still be Messi's World Cup.

    Those were theories that were widely voiced, yet for an hour they looked to be utter bunkum.

    Even at 90 minutes, with a 2-0 scoreline barely reflecting the flow of the game, you were left fearing Argentina might find a way to trip up against Poland next time out. If they finish second in this group, it will almost certainly be France waiting for them in the second round, and on the evidence so far, Argentina would be mauled by Les Bleus.

    Messi and Co arrived at this tournament on a 36-game unbeaten run, but such has been their languid start you would have been forgiven for guessing they played all 36 of those games in the last month.

    Here they were off the pace from the start, lacking any obvious strategy, down on energy, praying for Messi to conjure something. It had an air of Barcelona in the final days of Ronald Koeman's reign about it.

    Scaloni has backed Lautaro Martinez to be his lone striker, and there might have to be a rethink on that score. Martinez has a shot conversion rate of 12.9 per cent this season for Inter, which is not ideal for a striker, and has been finding the net at club level every 206.25 minutes.

    He has Edin Dzeko up alongside him for the Nerazzurri, who has been more clinical with his chances, but with Argentina it is Martinez who leads the line ostensibly alone.

    This team used to have an embarrassment of attacking riches, and they desperately miss prime era Higuain and Aguero.

    Martinez has a strong scoring record for his country, but he was ineffective here, his second game at his first World Cup.

    When a clear chance came his way in the 40th minute, after a fine cross from the right by Di Maria, he planted a header way off target. It was his one goal attempt. Argentina only had five shots all night, which was still one more than Mexico. Their combined total of shots is the fewest ever recorded in a World Cup, based on studies of matches going back as far as 1966.

    There was a moment late in the first half that looked to be typifying Argentina's night: Mexico's Alexis Vega had a free-kick well saved by Emiliano Martinez shortly before half-time and Argentina went on the break, with Messi looking to dance down the right and make something happen.

    Except, those feet don't dance as quickly as they once did, and the ball was soon swept into touch. At Paris Saint-Germain, with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for company, the gradual decline of Messi is not quite so obvious. He can be a joy to behold in that company still, but when all the attention of defenders is on him, as it inevitably was this time, he was being too easily crowded out and barged off the ball.

    In the second half, Erick Gutierrez hacked down Messi when he got close to the edge of the box and began to sprint, and Argentina had the chance they wanted. Messi punted it over the crossbar, and you just sensed it would not be his night.

    And then Messi decided that, actually, yes it would be.

    At the age of 35, he cannot win a World Cup by himself, but he can still come up with magical moments, and it was a goal for the career showreels, a stroke of familiar genius at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, which will stage this tournament's final.

    For the second time in his career, Messi has scored in six consecutive international games for his country. He remains a joy of a player, and his country's biggest hope.

    Substitute Enzo Fernandez added a late second goal that flattered Argentina, and it made the Benfica player, at 21 years and 313 days, the youngest Argentina scorer at a World Cup since the 18-year-old Messi announced himself at the 2006 finals. The past might still be a haunting influence, but here was a glimpse into the future.

    A smiling Messi celebrated with relieved supporters at the end. For just a fleeting moment in this game, he had been afforded a yard of space and made it count.

    Friday marked two years since the death of Maradona. He is Argentina's past, yet you still almost expect television cameras to pan to him in the stands.

    Messi has spent his life trying to live up to the legend of Maradona, and that shared super-natural brilliance has just about kept Argentina's hopes alive in Qatar.

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