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Jones lashes Springboks claim that England 'forward pack is weak'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images )

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Eddie Jones has suggested his England pack are spoiling for a fight in this Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series finale versus the Springboks, the coach taking umbrage at what he felt were claims by the South Africans that the English forwards were weak. This weekend’s fixture between the two countries is their first clash since the Springboks beat England in the 2019 World Cup final in Yokohama. 

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South African dominance at the scrum was influential that November day 24 months ago, but Jones has vowed that his England pack will get stuck in on Saturday with a team showing two changes from their win last weekend over the Wallabies, Jamie Blamire and Joe Marchant replacing the injured Jamie George and Owen Farrell. 

“You have got to get stuck in, mate,” he said at his team announcement media briefing when asked about counteracting the physicality of the Springboks. “There is no getting away from the fight but having said that, there are opportunities to hurt them in other ways and we have got to be brave enough to take those opportunities to hurt them in other ways.

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“Physicality is an important part of Test rugby and if you look at the history of South Africa and England rugby they have got a 65 per cent winning record and it is probably based on their physicality. 

“They said after the World Cup final, when they beat us fair and square, that they knew how to play us, they knew where our weaknesses were and they are implying that our forward pack is weak. Well, our forward is not weak and we will have an opportunity on Saturday to show that, so we are looking forward to taking them on in the physicality. We are also looking forward to trying to expose the weaknesses in their game which they do have. 

“It’s just the implication of what they are saying,” added Jones when asked to elaborate on what he felt the Springboks were implying about the England pack. “They knew how to beat us. (Siya) Kolisi after the World Cup final said he knew how to beat us and their game is obviously based on physicality, so the implication is that they go over our forward pack but our English forward pack won’t be weak on Saturday. We will have 82,000 people supporting that forward pack and we are looking forward to that contest upfront.”

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Five of the England pack – Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill – that will start this Saturday’s match were starters in the World Cup final, with Bevan Rodd, Blamire and Jonny Hill now in the forwards in place of the absent Vunipola brothers, Mako and Billy, and George. 

Asked to explain what weaknesses in the Springboks that England will aim to exploit, Jones answered: “Do you really think I am going to tell you? I don’t think that is a reasonable question, mate. But like every team, there is no team that is unbeatable, there is no team that doesn’t have a flaw in whatever they do and sometimes your strength becomes your weakness.

“I can’t answer what they expect, mate. I know what we are going to deliver. We will deliver a strong, spirited, energetic, aggressive display by our forward pack.”

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