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By Tom Fordyce
Chief sports writer
It matters how you start a World Cup but not as much as you finish it.
Eddie Jones was profound in a lot of these ding-dongs to realise this, along with his grin following England’s stuttering 35-3 win over Tonga on Sunday was of a guy who knows that he has the time and opportunity to find more.
He will need to hunt for it following a performance which was less of a fee on into the World Cup stage than a stumble through the opening curtain.
You still feel like you’ve lost just a little and can win matches against teams like Tonga. Everybody expects success. Anticipate something extravagant, especially when the opposition have lost six of their past seven games, including beats by Fiji, Japan and Samoa.
It does not have to matter. Only win. Get the bonus point. Keep everybody match, move on, step this up.
Tonga were shipping 14 tries against New Zealand. The screen of the reigning champions at setting the much struggle of South Africa in Yokohama on Saturday throw a shadow over the other pretenders to the throne, while the contrast between championship proper and a warm-up game isn’t completely true.
Neither was the Jones smile a permanent fixture. Following England had given away a needless penalty for offside after a restart when Maro Itoje along with Billy Vunipola attempted something unnecessarily funky, the big screens in the corner of their Sapporo Dome showed a close-up of this Australian double thumping the table in front of him with mute fury.
If it was reminiscent of the second when one of his predecessors, Martin Johnson, has been caught nearly hitting a pit in his own leg after a Danny Care transgression at Dublin a decade past, it exemplified too the facial Jones shows to his own players behind closed doors may not always be benevolent.
Johnson reign as England coach was ended by a World Cup effort that fell apart rapidly that time a one-try win over Argentina at Dunedin.
Jones understands that, like Johnson, his period at the helm is going to be judged by what happens on the greatest stage of all. You’re able to acquire the Six Nations and you can lose them. Fail at a World Cup and also you go – as Stuart Lancaster did after the calamity of 2015, as Johnson did in the aftermath of 2011.
Johnson’s regime ended jumping off a ferry into Auckland Creek, the final of several minutes of off-field scandal. Lancaster’s was downright holed if a combination of off-field indiscipline and recognizable injury denied him the opportunity to bring Tuilagi back into the fold, with all that happened later with Sam Burgess coming from his position along with a settled rear being reshuffled to adapt him.
So Jones can count himself lucky he has Tuilagi not just back but looking both thinner and stronger than he ever has in a wrecking-ball’s power, a bulldozer using all the pace of a sports car and an England jersey.
Tonga and also they brought the muscle and the attitude, as everybody expected, respectively. Anthony Watson and ben Youngs were both stopped as though they had run into bollards. Vunipola, who goes backward as often as Johnson did as a participant, was reversed at pace by Tonga’s open-side flanker Zane Kapeli.
Tuilagi shows relish for such fire. He has the weaponry.
His very first attempt came with a thump, the twist and two thumps of a wrestler. His second came after the Tongan defence was squeezed in to his run and finished with a supportive line to the area.
Groups win world Cups but garlanded hitting their summit. It is possible to cruise through some of the group point but small moments and large screens decide the games.
Tuilagi has consistently had the potential to be a player like that and England will want him to become. In a team based around its relentless application and power he’s a point of difference with the bluntest of corners, its smiling embodiment.
He might have experienced a hat-trick had replacement Henry Slade taken the ball and maybe not shown a little rustiness deep from the Tongan 22 with his cantering spare on his left. Elliot and slade Daly had the same problem with ruthlessness when a second opportunity opened up into the corner that was left, among 14 tackling mistakes made by the guys.
Jones was keen to point out later that England have now played 160 minutes of Test rugby without conceding an effort, less to emphasize the fact that those matches were against teams who few hope to escape the band point here in Japan was pushed to one side.
England have time, with the lively yet restricted USA to emerge in Kobe on Thursday. You get the feeling that a taskmaster, Jones, will enjoy the.
“Sometimes rugby’s similar to this,” he explained later. “You proceed with all the very best intentions to be sharp, you’ve got an image in your head that says you are likely to play some rugby and it does not end up like this.
“We weren’t sharp now, but what I really liked was that the mindset of our players. The great thing was we showed no shock.”
In public. The travel of england is now underway. Now it needs to pick up pace and direction.