A defeat for Eddie Jones’ side today is unthinkable. Less than a year away from the World Cup, consecutive defeats at home to Argentina and the Brave Blossoms would say so much more than just ‘England isn’t looking good betting to win the Webb Ellis Cup in 11 months”. It would pose huge questions for the coach who took the blame for Sunday’s 30-29 defeat to the Pumas. It would also, again, raise questions about the side’s make-up and the Marcus Smith-Owen Farrell partnership on 10 and 12 in particular.
Those are just two reasons why this match – and let’s face it England – Japan at Twickenham has never been seen as a BIG clash – is such an important one and one that could be of huge significance, not least because the hosts would then face New Zealand and South Africa in the next two weeks.
England’s loss to Argentina did illustrate a number of things: one, that everything is still not quite as you’d hope England are less than a year away from the World Cup, and two, to extenuate, that no one would likely take the Pumas.
So what can you expect today? Well, despite Sunday’s defeat, few expect the lightning to strike twice – an England win is by far the most likely outcome. But it is the way of the expected victory that will be examined. Can the hosts play with flair with the ball in hand? Too often England look lost for ideas when given an attacking platform, hence the investigation into the Smith-Farrell axis.
That’s something Farrell hasn’t lost, who said this week: “It’s finishing the odds, that was the work. Being a little calmer after we make the breaks and seeing where the opportunity is after that. It’s not like we can do that have not done.” create opportunities [against Argentina] in the conditions we played in, but we clearly weren’t good enough to finish them. Hopefully the changes won’t make any difference to where we’re going with that. Hopefully they add to that, which is the key.”
Can England remind everyone why they should be considered contenders for the World Cup? Or can Japan deliver another shock to the Twickenham faithful? Stay here to find out.