England 35-15 Japan: Eddie Jones’ men recover from woeful first half performance ahead of Australia test next weekend

17 Nov

England survived an almighty scare as Japan threatened another giant slaying before debutante Joe Cokanasiga’s try sealed a 35-15 victory at Twickenham.

Eddie Jones had urged the Brave Blossoms to ‘go to the temple and pray’ before the third of the autumn’s Quilter Internationals, but instead it was England’s head coach who was pleading to the heavens as his side fell 15-10 behind at half-time.

Cokanasiga celebrates scoring on his debut

The Test remained alive until the 72nd minute when bulldozing Bath wing Cokanasiga powered over to celebrate his debut with a try.

Until that point, Japan’s speed of thought, ability to keep the ball alive and willingness to try the unexpected caused chaos in English ranks.

The interval deficit would have been larger still had Michael Leitch managed to score his second try, but the outstanding Brave Blossoms captain had already done enough to leave his calling card at Twickenham.

Japan’s electric play made for an enthralling afternoon and Jones’ concern was evident when he replaced Alex Lozowski with Owen Farrell at the interval, the arrival of Saracens’ playmaker the prelude to a shift in the game’s balance.

The impressive Michael Leitch went over for Japan

The energy emptied from the tourists’ legs and England capitalised when Mark Wilson touched down in the 59th minute, but it was far from over as slick footwork and imagination made Japan a constant threat.

Cokanasiga struck, however, before a late Dylan Hartley try unfairly disfigured the final score to leave Jones reflecting on a poor performance against the side he coached to rugby’s greatest upset when South Africa were toppled at the 2015 World Cup.

It looked ominous for Japan when Danny Care sprinted over just inside three minutes after Elliot Daly had used his footwork to create space to launch a counter-attack, but for the rest of the half England were under siege.

Three penalties conceded in quick succession by Wilson invited pressure and the tourists almost succeeded with a driving maul before fly-half Yu Tamura was bundled into touch just short of the whitewash.

Farrell’s introduction at the interval changed the game

Tamura rifled over a penalty to reward the endeavour and danger loomed again when Kenki Fukuoka escaped down the left wing and, once that avenue was closed, they threatened along the opposite touchline.

England were getting little love from referee Paul Williams as Jamie George was sent to the sin-bin and in the 22nd minute they fell behind when Lozowski failed to stop Ryoto Nakamura as the centre ran hard for the line from a five-metre scrum.

The score was levelled through a Daly penalty taken on the halfway line but Japan were soon back in front through a Leitch try that was a combination of magnificent running and dreadful defence.

Care, Dylan Hartley and Harry Williams fell off tackles to allow Leitch to escape but the Japan captain saved the best until last by stepping Daly to score.

Mark Wilson scores in the corner at the end

Leitch almost plundered another in the right corner soon after but this time Lozowski made the tackle before timely reinforcements arrived in the form of Henry Slade, who had replaced calf-injury victim Chris Ashton.

Farrell’s first act was to fire a perfect touchfinder, but Japan were quickly back on the offensive as they passed and jinked their way out of the tightest of spaces.

Gradually, England began to spend more time on the front foot but they were met by a swarming and feverish defence that turned every collision and ruck into a battle.

The tide was definitely turning, however, and confirmation came when Farrell stood tall in the tackle and fed Wilson for his first international try.

Japan came again and would have scored had Akihito Yamada not been out of position.

But the decisive blow was landed in the 71st minute by Cokanasiga who stormed over as England probed down the left before Hartley had the final say.

Eddie Jones leaves Danny Cipriani out of England rugby squad for autumn Tests, but Ben Morgan earns recall

18 Oct

Eddie Jones has left Danny Cipriani out of his England squad for the upcoming autumn internationals.

The 30-year-old has enjoyed an impressive start to the season for new club side Gloucester, picking up the Gallagher Premiership Player of the Month for September.

However, he has not done enough to make the 36-man group for the Tests against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.

In August, he was arrested for an incident at a nightclub in Jersey and plead guilty to assault on a bouncer. He was fined by his club, but cleared by the RFU last month to play for his country having made the squad for the Test series against South Africa in the summer.

Owen Farrell and George Ford are present as the recognised fly-halves, although Henry Slade and Alex Lozowski provide cover in the position.

“We have got two good 10s,” said Jones. “It is tough on Danny but he is third choice at the moment.”

For the first time in Jones’ reign, Dylan Hartley must share the leadership duties with Farrell after the pair were named co-captains.

England's Autumn Internationals

  • v South Africa – 3/11/18
  • v New Zealand – 10/11/18
  • v Japan – 17/11/18
  • v Australia – 24/11/18

Ben Morgan has been picked for the first time since the 2015 World Cup as a result of the crisis at number eight which has seen Billy Vunipola and Sam Simmonds ruled out of the entire series by injury and Nathan Hughes miss all but the final match due to suspension.

Wing Chris Ashton is present despite having yet to make his debut for Sale with his seven-week ban for a tip-tackle elapsing this weekend.

Ben Morgan and Chris Ashton are back in the England squad however

Manu Tuilagi has overcome a succession of injuries to win inclusion and he will be competing with Ben Te’o – who has not played this season because of thigh and ankle problems – for selection in midfield.

England’s loosehead prop resources have been decimated by Mako Vunipola’s absence due to a calf issue and the international retirement of Joe Marler, leaving Alex Hepburn and Ben Moon as the only recognised options in the position.

The squad contains eight uncapped players and confirms the decline of veterans Dan Cole and James Haskell, who have been omitted once more.

Jones’ outlook on a punishing series that opens against the Springboks at Twickenham on November 3 remains positive despite missing 18 players to injury, suspension and retirement.

He said: “I’m really happy with the squad. We can only control what we can control and injuries have happened.

“It gives an opportunity for some good new players to play some important Tests for England while players who have been in the squad before, will have to take on more responsibility.”

The final autumn series before the 2019 World Cup is opened by the Springboks’ visit to Twickenham on November 3.

“South Africa have been going really well. They have a new coach and have selected well,” said Jones, whose England team fell to a 2-1 series defeat to Rassie Erasmus’ men in June.

“They play a traditional Springbok game up front and move the ball wide when they need to. We’ll need to take them on up front and when we have opportunities to score points we have to be good enough to take them.”