AN hour after masterminding one of England’s greatest sporting triumphs, Eddie Jones was already thinking dark thoughts.
This workaholic, insomniac head coach has experienced two World Cup final weeks before and he knows how such immense occasions can play tricks with a player’s mind.
Jones said: “The mindset you create during the week is very important — and it’s about not inventing shadows.
“Everywhere you look there are shadows, so you have to make sure you’re looking at the right shadows.”
England had just wiped the floor with New Zealand’s back-to-back world champs — the 19-7 semi-final scoreline having seriously flattered the outclassed All Blacks.
But Jones was already concerned about those ‘shadows’ — the fears and insecurities which can affect a player before a showpiece as grand as Saturday’s final with South Africa.
Whatever Jones says publicly, he knows bringing down the All Blacks team he described as rugby’s ‘God’ was the pinnacle of their achievements in a one-off match.
Yet unless they lift the Webb Ellis Cup in five days’ time, that mighty feat will end up tainted.
Up until this year, England had won two World Cups in 68 years of contesting such events in their three major men’s team sports — at Wembley in 1966 and against Jones’ Australia in Sydney in 2003.
Yet now the English could celebrate World Cup glory for the second time in 111 days following the intoxicating chaos of cricketing success against New Zealand in a Super Over at Lord’s in July.
During that competition, England also produced a near-perfect semi- final, hammering the Aussies — only to face ‘lesser’ opposition in a final which they could and should have ended up losing.
That is a ‘shadow’ worth looking at for Jones, who also worked as a consultant to South Africa when they defeated England in the 2007 final.
There was an encouraging sign at the final whistle on Saturday, though.
With the slight exception of replacement flanker Mark Wilson, who momentarily held his arms towards the heavens, England’s players barely celebrated.
Some went down on their haunches to catch breath, most just shook hands with the vanquished All Blacks, seemingly marking it down as a half-decent day at the office and on to the next one. On that lack of euphoria, Jones said: “It’s because we’ve got another week to go.
“Now it is about the attitude of the players and the messaging the leadership gives the players.
“It’s about making sure no one gets too far ahead of themselves and this team has got no reason to, as we haven’t achieved what we want. All it’s done is give us another week.”
Gesturing to the massed ranks of media, Jones continued: “This week won’t be normal because you have this — and you’ll have people on the street patting you on the back and telling you how good you’ve been.
“I’m sure the newspapers will be full of praise so you’ve got to work hard to keep yourself focused.”
As favourites for the final, England will have to adjust their mindset — and they are likely to be quieter, more self-contained than last week.
But as underdogs against the All Blacks, their psychological approach was spot-on — bullish in their words, determined not to be bullied by the pre-match Haka and like bulls in a china shop in the opening minutes.
England’s rapid start — including a Manu Tuilagi try after just 96 seconds — was key.
Jones said: “A Test match against New Zealand is like the start in Formula One. You’ve got to be on your mark ready to go because if you’re not, you get left behind and you can never find your way back.
“We had to come out of the blocks hard early and establish some physical and mental ascendancy early. You don’t win the game there but it puts you in a good position.”
Jones was fulsome in his praise for skipper Owen Farrell, who soldiered on after suffering a dead leg in the first half — with George Ford having to take over kicking duties and landing four penalties.
Jones said: “Owen was outstanding. He wasn’t at his best but he managed the team so well.
“That second half becomes a leadership challenge and he got the boys focused and got us doing the simple things well. He understood where we could get an advantage and did that brilliantly.
“As for the injury, I think you would have needed a samurai sword to get him off!”
Now boss Jones must lead his men forward, knowing that, while the ‘Gods’ have fallen, sporting immortality is still to be achieved.
He knows the pathway to those bright lights. And he knows his men must sidestep the shadows.
Source link : https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/10224736/rugby-world-cup-england-south-africa-eddie-jones-worried/
Publish date : 2019-10-27 22:30:00