Jones ready for ‘çhess with steroids’

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It was the head coach’s inimitable way of describing the structured ferocity that the Springboks will bring to Twickenham.

It is not a prospect that is overly troubling the Australian, based on Thursday’s evidence.

He was in his element as he joked about South Africa’s size-obsessed selection policy and recounted anecdotes from his time coaching them, on the way to World Cup glory in 2007. Jones even claimed to have told his players that physicality was a basic pre-requisite of the job and if they could not deliver it, they ‘should be playing volleyball or curling’.

Prior to that quip, he came with news of six starting changes — as revealed in Sportsmail yesterday.

The major talking point was the decision to pick Elliot Daly at outside centre ahead of Jonathan Joseph, in recognition of the Wasps player’s fine form and prodigious kicking capability.

On the wings, Jonny May and Marland Yarde have been recalled. Up front, Joe Launchbury is joined by the Northampton pair, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood.

All three of those forwards have previously experienced the routine of standing up to the might of the Bok pack, only to fall short of ending a decade-long quest for a victory in this often explosive fixture.

Jones was asked if he could pinpoint a recurring theme behind the repeated English failures against these foes. Having looked for patterns, he emphasised the need to take the visitors out of their comfort zone.

‘Playing against a physically aggressive side, you’ve got to play smart,’ he said.

‘We’re not shying away from the physical side of the game, but when Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman, if he went toe-to-toe with him he was going to lose, so he had to find other ways of getting around him.

‘We don’t want to go toe-to-toe with them because that’s what they want us to do. Why would we do that?

‘It’s about contesting the set-piece, making sure South Africa don’t win the ball when they want to win it. They’re a very structured side, South Africa. They never change. They play the game like a physical game of chess. Like chess with steroids.

‘They know exactly where they want to go, and they do it with force. So we’ve got to be so good at not allowing them to win the ball in the right place.

‘Then, on second and third phase, not allow them to get momentum, and make them play from an unstructured situation.

‘It’s almost the opposite game that you play against New Zealand. Against New Zealand, you want to keep your game as structured as possible, against South Africa you want to keep the game unstructured.’ While the English gameplan will revolve around a refusal to play to the Springboks’ strengths, they will still need to fight with fire, and in that regard Lawes and Wood have key roles to play.

Both of the Northampton forwards will be charged with adding intensity and aggression.

Jones has witnessed a transformation in Lawes, who will earn his 50th Test cap tomorrow. ‘I’d seen him play for England and play some good Tests,’ he said. ‘But I got him in at the start of the Six Nations and it was disappointing.

‘His body wasn’t in great condition, and maybe his attitude wasn’t great. Since then he’s evolved fantastically well.

‘His dedication to become better, improve his body and improve his rugby has been first-class.

‘You see with a lot of young players they are like shooting comets and they have a bit of a fall because you can’t keep going like that all the time.

‘You have a bit of a fall and then it’s how quickly you rebound and he’s rebounded really well. I think his 50th Test is going to be the start of another 50 for him, and I think the next 50 will be better than the last 50.’

Wood has not represented his country since the premature end to England’s World Cup campaign last October, but he is another who has forced his way back in to favour.

‘He’s so full of enthusiasm,’ said Jones, of the flanker who will wear No 7 in the on-going absence of James Haskell.

‘He’s got a bit of Rambo about him. He walks around the hotel with no shoes on, he’s got bows and arrows round the corner, he’s got chainsaws. He’s so keen to be here and that’s what you want. He’s played 42 Tests but he’s come in like it’s his first Test. He’s just busting to do well for the team.’

That is just the sort of energy that the coaches need within the squad, as they strive to cope with several front-line casualties.

Despite losing the services of Haskell, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell and countless others, England are sending out a formidable line-up for this punishing game of full-contact chess.

Daily Mail

Original source: Jones ready for ‘çhess with steroids’

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