One reason Eddie Jones announced his 31 for the World Cup earlier than any other coach was the research he had made into England’s inglorious campaigns in the previous two tournaments when indiscipline off the field and rivalry within the squad shattered morale and left Twickenham with a protracted clean-up.
“I agree with the decision,” says Dan Cole, a veteran of the 2011 and 2015 campaigns who is the most capped player in the squad on 88, along with his Leicester club colleague Ben Youngs. “There is a togetherness. This is the best squad I have been involved in in terms of tightness. Four years ago it was a bit too individual, but now everyone is pushing each other and working hard.”
As they will be loth to recall, England in 2015 became the first hosts to exit a World Cup at the group stage. The squad reveal was hijacked by the fast-tracking of Sam Burgess, who had arrived from rugby league and played his first match for Bath only 10 months before. It was not his presence on the field that cost England but the divisiveness it created.
“The early announcement gives players confidence and time to even further tighten up,” says Cole. “Before then it was week-to-week with players coming and going but there is still a lot of work to do before we arrive in Japan. You just want to make the team as strong as it can be.”
England play their final warm-up match against Italy in Newcastle on Friday night. Cole is almost certain to be involved as one of only two tightheads in the squad, along with Kyle Sinckler. He fought his way back after being omitted from last year’s England tour to South Africa, the following autumn international campaign and the first three rounds of the Six Nations.
“Having two tightheads is fine because, I hope, you are involved in all the games,” says Cole. “That is what you want as a player and it is good backing for Kyle and I to share the workload, although I am sure one of the looseheads will be cross-trained. Eddie kept in touch a fair amount last season, telling me what I needed to do. He wanted me to rest last summer and then it was about what I had to do to get back into the reckoning. I tried and here I am.”
At 32 it is likely to be the third and final World Cup for Cole, who toured with the Lions in 2013 and 2017 and whose experience in the absence of Dylan Hartley and Chris Robshaw is all the more valuable. “A fourth would be nice but I do not think it will happen,” he says. “I would be 36 then and doubt I will get there. When you are young you do not worry too much because you think you will get another one but as one of the senior guys I have to make sure everyone pushes hard because, in some regard, there is no tomorrow.
“You want to be going flat out from minute one and not thinking about anything else because we know what can happen in World Cups. The schedule is demanding but also exciting. We have one turnaround of four days. I have done that with the Lions and you just go with it. Everything prepped and as a player you have to trust. It is nothing to worry about.”
The bookmakers have New Zealand as the favourites to win their third consecutive World Cup but it could be put down to force of habit at a time when the gap between the top five countries looks smaller than before any of the other eight tournaments.
“When you look at the recent Rugby Championship, I think this will be the closest World Cup,” believes Cole. “South Africa won it, Australia came strong and New Zealand will no doubt be formidable. In the north Wales won the Six Nations, Ireland beat everyone in the world a year ago and we are improving. Scotland can turn up and do things and France can do damage, like Argentina who are also in our group. Pretty much anyone can win it, which is good from a neutral perspective and for the sport. It should be a great spectacle.”
And this time England are programmed not to make spectacles of themselves.
Source link : https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/aug/31/england-have-unity-missing-world-cup-dan-cole
Publish date : 2019-08-31 21:00:00