A FAMOUS victory over the All Blacks just eluded them but England are already preparing to “smash” Japan with Eddie Jones advising his former team to “pray, pray, pray” ahead of the Twickenham contest.
The Australian, who helped Japan to the sport’s biggest shock when they defeated South Africa in the 2015 World Cup, is relishing the prospect.
He would not disclose why he is so fired up and what it is that his erstwhile employers have done to irk him so much.
Maybe it will be frustration at not finishing off New Zealand on Saturday, having had the world champions on their knees, leading 15-0 heading into the penultimate minute of a stunning first half at HQ.
The All Blacks, of course, rallied as they so often do to edge home 16-15. However, Jones – delighted with the calibre of the majority of his side’s display – was asked if psychologically there is an impact ahead of next year’s World Cup when England hope to dethrone their revered opponents for the first time in eight years.
Essentially, do his side now know, that the next time they meet, they could have that crucial edge?
“Well, I think there’s an impact for next week; if I was Japan I’d be worried,” said Jones. “We want to smash them, physically smash them, because I know they’re going to come full of confidence.
“I’ve heard some of the things they’ve said; they’ve been a bit cheeky so look out.”
Japan – whose only other meeting with England was a 60-7 defeat in the 1987 World Cup – have flexed their muscles and caused New Zealand some problems of their own before falling 69-31 in Tokyo a little over a week ago.
But when asked if had any advice for them ahead of their visit to Twickenham, Jones said: “Pray, pray, pray. Go to the temple and pray. Just pray, it’s the best thing. We’re going to be absolutely ruthless.”
It seems, then, there will be no chance of a repeat of Japan’s seismic win over the Springboks in Brighton three years ago.
“The coach has changed; they’ve got a better coach now,” said Jones, referring to former All Blacks forward Jamie Joseph.
“They’re a really well-coached side. Seriously well coached. They’re the highest kicking team in the world, they’ve got a really good defence system and they’ve got some good young players coming through.
“We’re taking it seriously and that’s why we have to be absolutely ruthless about the game. If you want to come out and watch a Barbarians game, don’t come out, stay home.
“Watch Arsenal play Chelsea or whoever’s playing.”
For a coach who was under intense pressure barely a week ago, a win over South Africa followed by the narrowest of defeats to the All Blacks has left Jones back in credit and he said his side are “100 per cent” out of last season’s wobble when they lost five of six successive Test matches.
“I think anyone who watched the (New Zealand) game could see, on that performance, we’re not far away, so why wouldn’t I be pleased?” he continued.
“We’re obviously devastated (to suffer defeat) but I think you can see measurably we’re taking steps forward and we’ve got half a side out there with 400 caps.
“To win the World Cup you need 800 caps and those things don’t lie. But you put Mako (Vunipola) and Billy (Vunipola) back in and we immediately pick up plenty (of caps).
“We’ve got a few other variations there which would get us close to it, then we’re in the money. There’s a range you need to be in. Test match rugby is about experience; it’s about doing the right things at the right time.
“There were a couple of times when we could have done better things at that time. Test match experience teaches you that.”
Jones would not comment on the TMO decision that ruled out Sam Underhill’s 76th minute try.
He also backed his players’ decision to go for the corner when points were available only for the lineout to fail.
“The players feel the game,” he said. “We don’t feel the game; we see the game. If they feel that there is an opportunity to crack the opposition, they have got to go for it. Otherwise, why do we want leaders in the team?”