Eddie Jones insists England must continue scaling their Everest as he reflects on the off-field bonding that has helped propel his team into genuine World Cup contention.
Ireland were overwhelmed 57-15 at Twickenham on Saturday in a victory that sent records tumbling as a highest number of tries and points scored against their Six Nations rivals also contributed to the greatest winning margin.
A mighty performance issued a statement with one last warm-up Test remaining – against Italy in Newcastle on Friday week – before the squad departs for Japan on September 8.
Having been involved in four previous World Cups, Jones compares preparation for the tournament to climbing a mountain.
And critical to reaching their current position has been the social events held at a recent training camp in Treviso that may have seen Mike Brown and Ben Te’o lock horns, but was invaluable for others.
“You have ideas in your head but you never know exactly where you need to be because you don’t know where the opposition are,” Jones said.
“If we’re at the bottom of Mount Everest, we’ve got to plan to be at base camp three by now, but if everyone else is at base camp five, then your plan is wrong.
“You’ve got to keep evaluating, keep looking. The only thing you do know is that you’ve got to keep going forward and that’s hard.
“It’s like climbing a mountain, the higher you get, the more uncomfortable it gets, the ground gets shaky, your ears start to burn, your nose starts to run.
“And that’s where we’re getting into that territory because we’ve got to push it forward again.
“For an England side that is quite a difficult thing because you’ve got 12 clubs that all have different philosophies and the players are employed by the clubs. If someone pays you money, you’re loyal to that club.
“To have time together as a team and for them to work out differences for a better relationship is massive for us.”
England return to Treviso this week for the second of their two ‘heat camps’, which Jones insists will be like a “mini pre-season” as he prepares to raise the intensity once more, declaring “it’s the only way we can get better”.
An eight-try demolition of Ireland – considered fellow title contenders – has set minds racing over what could unfold this autumn, but number eight Billy Vunipola knows what must happen next to justify the hype.
“I would like to see that performance away from home. That is the biggest thing for me. I have said it to Eddie in the changing rooms,” Vunipola said.
“It’s something we need to start doing away from Twickenham. That is the biggest challenge next, going to Japan and doing it away from all our fans and the comforts of our home changing room.
“Our next game is against Italy but our biggest game is against Tonga. We need to put out performances like Ireland more consistently.”
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Owen Farrell reflected on England’s crushing 57-15 victory over Ireland that saw records tumble at Twickenham by declaring the best is yet to come.
A stunning triumph in the third of four World Cup warm-up Tests signalled that Eddie Jones’ men are genuine title contenders when the global showpiece opens in Tokyo on September 20.
Awful Ireland leaked eight tries – their highest against England – and also collapsed to their heaviest defeat and conceded the largest number of points against their Six Nations rivals.
“It felt good. It’s a step in the right direction. The most pleasing thing is that our best stuff is still in front of us,” captain Farrell said.
“We feel like we are going in the right direction and are building towards something. This is another step along. It feels like there is a lot more in us.”
Lions centre Manu Tuilagi was named man of the match after a blockbusting display notable for a series of rampaging runs to which Ireland’s feeble defence had no answer.
“Manu’s in a good place, he’s got a smile on his face. He makes coffee for everyone every day except me so I’ve got to put my order in a bit earlier,” head coach Eddie Jones said.
“He’s getting fitter. He’s about 80 per cent fit at the moment – we’ve still got a little bit left to go with him and when he gets there he’ll be a handful.
“One of his greatest attributes is people like to play with him. It’s scary if you have to mark him.”
The only cloud over the performance was Mako Vunipola’s departure near the end with a recurrence of a hamstring injury.
Vunipola was making his return after four months on the sidelines but his appearance in the second half lasted just 17 minutes.
“Mako just got bit of a twinge and it was more of a precaution to take him off. Obviously he’ll be investigated fully,” Jones said.
Ireland boss Joe Schmidt admitted his side were “dishevelled” and challenged his players to shape up – fast.
“It was a litany of mistakes from us to be honest, we were dishevelled,” said Schmidt.
“We didn’t get our set-piece going, didn’t really scavenge as well as we would have liked. We fell off 34 tackles, 21 in the first half.
“It was tight in that first quarter, when we led 10-8 there was a bit of promise there. But it was very disappointing.
“We’ve got to be able to defend with 14 men. Just to go in the shed at half-time 22-10, it’s a big difference from 15-10. You’re two scores away then.
“We were underdone, a bit heavy-legged. It doesn’t have to be too much of a margin between two teams for one to be a bit sluggish and the other to be on the top of their game.
“I know we can get better than that, I know we have to. The players will take responsibility to do everything they can to turn it around next week and build from that because what really matters is in four weeks’ time (the World Cup opener against Scotland).”
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England signalled their Rugby World Cup intentions by hammering Ireland 57-15 at Twickenham in their third warm-up game ahead of the global showpiece in Japan.
Tries from Joe Cokanasiga (2), Elliot Daly, Manu Tuilagi, Maro Itoje, George Kruis, Tom Curry and Luke Cowan-Dickie proved that Eddie Jones’ men will be genuine contenders this autumn.
For Ireland, Jordan Larmour and Bundee Aki touched down, but the Men in Green were simply vulnerable everywhere in attack and defence.
Here are the key talking points from a one-sided contest.
ENGLAND BACK TO THEIR BEST
After last week’s defeat to Wales, England controlled everything from the efficiency at the breakdown, tight defence, excellent continuity play, quick line speed, detail around the set-piece and general commitment to the contest.
All the ingredients for a positive performance were on show at Twickenham.
To underline the solidity of England’s defence in the first, in particular, they only missed three out of 63 tackles in comparison to Ireland’s shocking 21 missed tackles from 65.
In the second half, as the players tired out due to the soaring London heat, England missed 13 out of their 43 tackles but continued to push Ireland on the score board.
In total, the Red Rose dominated possession, territory, rucks won, conceded less turnovers and enjoyed more clean breaks and defenders beaten.
It will take a tough and fearless side to beat Jones’ men.
STAR MAN TUILAGI
The England centre was an inspiration for the home side and the most dangerous runner on the park.
Tuilagi got on the scoresheet just before half-time, turning on the power setting to burst over for a try.
He made a stunning 56 metres from 11 runs, with one clean break, seven defenders beaten and even one offload.
Defensively he also did a job with seven tackles made and none missed.
If the 28-year-old can stay injury free, he will be one of Jones’ pivotal figures in Japan.
Special mention must go to Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, Cokanasiga and Billy Vunipola who were also top class.
CONTRASTING SET PIECES
Ireland struggled at set-piece and their line-out, in particular, was a complete shambles, losing six of their 15. In contrast, England enjoyed a 100 per cent record at scrum (8/8) and line-out time (15/15).
It was off the set-piece that England looked sharp as they initiated some formidable attacking opportunities, and for all their possession and territory, they made Ireland suffer whenever they stretched the ball out wide.
The line-out did improve once Sean Cronin was introduced for captain Rory Best. At that stage Ireland had lost four out of their eight throws, and once the Leinster man came in, they won five from seven.
Ireland are simply not good enough without a rock-solid set piece.
IRELAND LACK KILLER INSTINCT
The Men in Green weren’t able to hold on to possession, missed tackles and gave away easy turnovers.
They couldn’t string together some precise phases, made bad reads in defence, and, similar to February’s comprehensive Six Nations defeat, they were bullied across the park.
It bodes the question about selection and, even though these are just warm-up games, Jack Conan needs to start ahead of CJ Stander at No8.
The Leinster man has been flawless for his province, while Stander was non-existent against England and has been poor form for the majority of this calendar year.
At lock, Jean Kleyn’s stock certainly dropped after his promising debut performance against Italy two weeks ago. If it is a shoot-out on selection between Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne, then Schmidt needs to opt for the latter because of his versatility and overall impact.
For a side that needs to start with a bang in Japan, Ireland need to improve vastly against Wales next week.
INJURIES TO KEY MEN
The danger with the warm-up matches is the risk of key man picking up injuries.
Bar Mako Vunipola coming off with a hamstring injury late on, England escaped their third warm-up match injury free, while Ireland were robbed of two stars today.
Conor Murray sustained a head injury while tackling Jonny May on 32 minutes and was replaced by Luke McGrath.
The Munster man did look fine when the camera panned to the stands during the second half, but it was Cian Healy’s injury which looked more severe.
The Irish prop was in serious pain but chose to walk off the field with his right ankle in clear discomfort.
Hopefully it’s something minor and he’s not ruled out of the World Cup.