By Mitch Phillips
TOKYO (Reuters) – England will give everything they have to match Argentina’s physicality in their World Cup clash on Saturday but they also plan to show something of a stiff upper lip in the face of what they expect to be a fiery and emotional Puma side.
Argentina have been cranking up the passion play for a game they have to win to stay in the competition but England coach Eddie Jones said on Friday that his players would have to keep their cool and avoid being dragged into a heated battle.
“I think you have got to be smart. Rugby is a tough, physical game and the passion and pride come out in the toughness whenever you play,” he told journalists at the Tokyo Stadium.
“They base their game on the scrum, it is their manlihood, so you have got to take them up front, which is the scrum, the maul, the ruck attack and ruck defence. That is where it is going to be won.
“But then there is also emotional control because when you have a lot of passion and pride it tends to multiply your strengths and multiply your weaknesses. We obviously want to multiply our strengths and attack their weaknesses.”
England’s chief weakness over the last couple of years has been an inability to stem the tide when rivals get up an emotional head of steam – seen most notably in this year’s Six Nations in the 21-13 defeat by Wales in a seething Cardiff bearpit and in Scotland’s amazing second-half comeback from 31-0 down as England froze in the headlights en route to an incredible 38-38 Twickenham draw.
Rather than trying to take the heat out of such situations, captain and ultimate competitor Owen Farrell too often appeared to find an even higher gear of aggression – something he and Jones have been working to put behind him while encouraging others in the “leadership group” to find their voice.
“He’s gone very well (as captain) over last 12 months and every day he gets a bit better,” Jones said of Farrell, who took over as skipper from his original choice, hooker Dylan Hartley.
The “new England” Jones has spent almost four years honing to be judged on the next five weeks need to find a way to be cool, calm and calculating and trust that their power and skill will bring them through even if things are looking tricky for a while.
“Argentina play with a lot of pride, a lot of passion and this will be multiplied by the fact that they are in a game that is very important for them,” Jones said.
The Australian added that his coaching team had worked hard on creating training situations to equip the players to deal with such situations but recognised that no amount of work in the peaceful pastures of their Pennyhill Park training base can prepare them for the real thing with a team’s World Cup future entirely dependent on their next 80 minutes of rugby.
“It’s a bit like a tea-bag isn’t it?” he said. “You don’t know how good it is until you put it in hot water.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)