Rugby World Cup 2019: Playing Tonga is like facing Stoke City - Jones

By Sports Desk September 22, 2019

Eddie Jones said facing Tonga was "like playing Stoke City" after England opened their Rugby World Cup campaign with a 35-3 victory on Sunday.

England did not fully hit their stride in their first Pool C match in Sapporo, though Manu Tuilagi's first-half double put them in control.

Jamie George and substitute Luke Cowan-Dickie got in on the act with tries to secure a bonus point in the second half, with Owen Farrell's kicking doing the rest of the damage.

Though Jones conceded his side did not reach their highest level, he insisted he was happy with England's attitude against a side he compared to Stoke, who - during their time in the Premier League under former boss Tony Pulis – developed a reputation for a physical style of play, albeit in a different sport.

"I was really happy with the defence and that is a good sign of the attitude of the team," Jones told a news conference.

"I'm happy with the players' attitude and I think they applied themselves well. We didn't execute well but that is rugby.

"It's a bit like playing Stoke City [against Tonga]. The ball went out a lot and maybe that was their intention, but importantly we got five points and no serious injuries.

"We showed no frustration. The only time they got in our 22 was in the last minute of the game which gives you a show of the superiority we had. These are always difficult games, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.

"The World Cup is not a 100-metre sprint, so you don't have to come out of the blocks and be absolutely fantastic, you have to be steady and improve. I know we'll keep improving and that's the mindset of the team."

England struggled with their discipline early on, conceding several penalties in quick succession - one of which was converted by Sonatane Takulua.

Jones was clearly frustrated, television pictures showed him slamming his fist down on the desk during proceedings, though the former Japan boss laughed off the suggestion his anger got the better of him.

"There was a lot of mosquitos up there," Jones joked. "I was struggling with them and had to swat a few.

"Look, I'm a coach, I get emotional, angry, excited, disappointed, that's all. I'll just reiterate I was so pleased with the attitude of my players today. It was fantastic."

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    "[The quarter-final] is the date he passed away, so there'll be a game on an important day for me as well," he said.

    Japan's scrum coach Shin Hasegawa was handed his international breakthough by Hirao during his playing days.

    "I'm a bit emotional talking about Hirao," he added. "He was the one who picked me for the national team, he was the one who played me. We have a game on a special day. I hope we can pay him back.

    "The best memory is receiving a letter in my room a day before our opening match in the 2003 World Cup. It wasn't that long but had things that encouraged me and made me feel, 'I need to fight for this man'. 

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    The Leicester Tigers flyer made his international debut over six years ago during a tour of Argentina, when the majority of the team was on British and Irish Lions duty.

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    "But it's no time to take a step back. It's a huge team game at the weekend.

    "It really has been a challenge. You have to fight to be a part of the squad, let alone to start. My mindset has changed so much on that, especially with Eddie [Jones] coming in. 

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    "I have changed a lot, not just as a rugby player but as a person. I have matured. I have become more focused, maybe a little bit more introverted as the years have gone on.

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