AP NEWS

Eddie Jones smiling, England peaking at Rugby World Cup

September 26, 2019
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England’s coach Eddie Jones, left, chats with Tonga’s coach Toutai Kefu before the Rugby World Cup Pool C game between England and Tonga at Sapporo Dome in Sapporo, northern Japan, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (Masanori Takei/Kyodo News via AP)
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England’s coach Eddie Jones, left, chats with Tonga’s coach Toutai Kefu before the Rugby World Cup Pool C game between England and Tonga at Sapporo Dome in Sapporo, northern Japan, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. (Masanori Takei/Kyodo News via AP)

KOBE, Japan (AP) — Eddie Jones’ smile was wider than it’s been at the Rugby World Cup so far.

“We’re pleased with where we are,” he said.

England is right where it wants to be: Two bonus-point wins from its first two games to sit top of Pool C.

More than that, England managed its short turnaround between the games without any problems — putting away the United States 45-7 in Kobe on Thursday, four days after beating Tonga 35-3 in Sapporo.

England has scored 11 tries and conceded just one, and that came right at the end against the Americans when everything had already been settled.

England’s game is firing on all fronts. The scrum and lineout was way too strong for the Americans. England also scored off two rolling mauls to ensure that part of the game is working fine.

The kicking game, centered on but not limited to flyhalf George Ford, center Owen Farrell and scrumhalves Ben Youngs and Willi Heinz, is pinpoint.

And England’s outside backs ran the U.S. ragged in the second half.

Jones’ decision to favor Ford at flyhalf and shift Farrell to inside center is paying off, too. Ford ran the game against the Americans in a man-of-the-match performance.

England has no serious injuries so far and Jones is likely to have the entire squad available for selection for the next game against Argentina. That was “a fantastic achievement” from the backroom staff, Jones said.

England’s reward now is a nine-day rest before Argentina, which will be a step up from Tonga and the U.S. Then it’s France to finish the group.

Jones has been dishing out praise left and right for host nation Japan, the country he used to coach, all through the first week of the Rugby World Cup.

First he gushed about how the people of Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido — who aren’t used to rugby — embraced the game so willingly when England was up there for its first match. This week it’s been about Kobe beef — the best in Japan and some of the tastiest prime steaks you’ll eat, according to Jones.

In terms of praising his England team, he was a little more cautious. It’s still early days at the World Cup.

“We’ll need to play better in our next game,” Jones said.

But the smile gave it away.

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