It is finally time for Eddie Jones to give up on the mind games with opponents and focus purely on matters on the field as he was almost made to swallow his words yet again at the weekend.
Part of why Jones is seen as such a fantastic coach is that he can get into people’s heads and plant seeds of doubt in their mentality but then there are times when he crosses that line and just gives his opponents motivation to try and beat him.
Last week he did just that to Jamie Joseph and his Japanese outfit who, for 55 minutes at Twickenham on Saturday, had England firmly on the ropes, wobbling like a punch-drunk heavyweight at the end of his career.
His comments in a press conference last week about Japan going to a temple to pray were misguided at the very least.
“Pray, Pray, Pray. Go to the temple and pray. Just pray, it’s the best thing. We’re going to be absolutely ruthless. If I was Japan, I would be worried” is the wording he chose to stoke the fire.
What Jones doesn’t seem to have grasped is that like Frankenstein, this was the monster that he had created and therefore he should know better than to poke it with a large stick.
If Japan are a monster then Michael Leitch is the heart that Jones gave it. It has a huge heart and it pumps stronger than most. Leitch was man of match by a country mile on Saturday and but for the obsession of giving it to someone on the winning side he would have left HQ with a medal around his neck.
Japanese rugby doesn’t physically owe their former coach anything but where they are right now in the echelons of World Rugby can certainly be attributed to his work at club level and later with the national team.
Jones invested years of his career into rugby within the Land of the Rising Sun and should the Webb Ellis Trophy not come back to Twickenham next year then his greatest achievement will always be that famous victory for the Brave Blossoms in Brighton against the Springboks during the 2015 World Cup.
His comments pre-match were starting to look more and more misguided after kick off on Saturday. He had been caught cold with both his selection and tactics by Joseph.
Japan kept the ball alive and played uncomplicated yet effective old school rugby. The sort of rugby that you are taught coming up through the age ranks. That is not a demeaning comment in the slightest as their accuracy and skill levels were exemplary. England hardly touched the ball because Japan were just too good for them.
Leitch stayed away from the breakdown and did his damage out wide whilst his smaller companions contained the giants of Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes. They were powerless as Japan ran at gaps and offloaded to make easy territorial gains.
There were 80,000 Englishman at the temple of Twickenham praying at half time.
There was nothing ruthless in what Jones’ team were doing, that was all coming from the men in red and white.
On to the field came his “get out of jail free cards” and finally they found the ascendency in the game as Japan tired.
England reverted back to what they are good at and they duly showed some glimpses of the way they should have approached the game from the first whistle. Powerful runners that suck in defenders before going wide and utilisation of a driving maul against a Tier 2 nation is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s how England have been successful during the Australian’s tenure in the top job.
The key stats from the match are quite unbelievable and when England play at home against any team, let alone Japan, these stats should be setting off alarm bells in camp.
The chariots leaving Twickenham on Saturday will have been filled with relief rather than satisfaction as the fans went to the pubs or the West Car Park to watch the match in Dublin.
A test match that will have filled those fans with envy at the way that the two teams played. Intensity, continuity and fair brutality from the top two nations in World Rugby that had no underlying sniping or declarations of war.
In fact, Joe Schmidt and Steve Hansen spent most of the build-up saying that their opponents were better than themselves.
They are the ones that should have been declaring war because they knew that they could back it up with the type of hardened and skilful performances that they did put in.
Until England reach that level of rugby, which may take a prayer or two at present, then it would be advisable for Eddie Jones to continue talking about rugby and what the Red Rose is hoping to achieve rather than predicting things that never materialise.
Photo Credit England Kath via freeforcommercialuse.org