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The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation

Eddie Jones' England weren't far away from making the grade.

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Cruel end to Alex Lozowski's Test career is back on England minds

By PA
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Imagesges)

England loosehead Mako Vunipola has admitted that the end of the Alex Lozowski Test career following a 2018 mistake against Japan serves as a vivid reminder of the danger of underestimating Saturday’s Twickenham opponents. Four years ago Lozowski missed a tackle on opposite number Ryoto Nakamura and Eddie Jones reacted by replacing the Saracens centre at half-time and never picking him again.

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The last meeting between the nations came to be known among players as the ‘Black Hole Game’ after Zach Mercer also won his last cap and Danny Care was forced into four years of international exile that only ended against Australia in July.

England trailed 15-10 at half-time and during the interval Care and Jones had a row in response to an abject 40 minutes that was ultimately rescued with the introduction of Owen Farrell. When asked if the fate of club colleague Lozowski is evidence of the pitfalls awaiting against Japan, Vunipola replied: “It is. It was tough on Alex and you feel for him.

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“Alex has bounced back for Saracens, but it is a reminder that it’s a privilege to be here. It’s a choice that we are here and it’s not a given. It’s down to Eddie who he picks and we have got to go out there and do our best for the team.

“I didn’t play in that Japan game but I watched it and I remember there was certainly an expectation that we would just turn up and everything was just going to click. But Japan are a team who you have to respect because of what they have done in World Cups and they have built on that.”

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Jack Nowell formed a centre partnership with Lozowski on that day – it was his only international outing in the 13 jersey – and he recalled that England were guilty of taking the Brave Blossoms too lightly. Japan were transformed under Jones’ guidance, just missing out on a place in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals, and Jamie Joseph built on the foundations laid by his predecessor by steering them into the knockout phase four years later.

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It is now a fixture laced with danger and Nowell insisted that the England attitude must be right after the Autumn Nations Series opened with a 30-29 defeat to Argentina last Sunday. “We know we didn’t give Japan the respect they deserved last time we played them at home. A few boys got a few bits wrong,” Nowell said.

“Very much during that week we were saying the right things, we just didn’t do it on the field. Maybe some of the players who got the nod didn’t give the game the respect it deserved, or maybe us as a team didn’t.

“Learning from those lessons from four years ago, we’re not going to go into this game with the same sort of mindset. We are treating this as a proper Test match for us and obviously, we want a reaction from the Argentina game as well.”

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