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Eddie Jones sends England warning ahead of Japan clash

Japan head coach Eddie Jones looks on during the Japan Rugby captain's run at National Stadium on June 21, 2024 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

Returning Japan head coach Eddie Jones believes his side can push England all the way in Saturday’s clash at the National Stadium in Tokyo.


Jones’s first game back in charge of the Brave Blossoms – which will air live and free in the UK and Ireland on RugbyPass.TV – pits him against the country he led to three Six Nations titles and the 2019 World Cup final where they lost out to South Africa.

Japan has picked a new-look side with an emphasis on youth and ‘super-fast’ rugby while England has a settled team and are looking to build on the foundation they set in this year’s Six Nations.

“We’re going to take England right until the last moment,” Jones told RugbyPass with a wry smile, before adding: “I’ve got a good feeling in my bones.

“We’ve got no excuses, we’re well prepared and we’re going to give it a really good go on Saturday.”

Watch England vs Japan on RPTV

Jones was more diplomatic than usual when assessing his opponents and his opposite number Steve Borthwick who worked under the Australian in his previous stint in charge of Japan.


“England are a very good team, an excellent team in fact and I’m very pleased for the squad.”

Jones rates Borthwick highly and knows, perhaps better than anyone, the demands of one of the game’s most high-profile jobs.

“For a young guy, Steve’s doing a great job and as you know it’s a high pressure job.

“You get more scrutiny than probably in any other job. He’s reassembling that team and bringing young players though and he has done a really good job.”

Jones outlined his vision for the future of Japanese rugby and explained why he opted for youth rather than experience.


“We’re starting a period for Japan where we need to change Japanese rugby so we’ve gone for some young players as they are the best players to pick at this stage.

“Of course England has good players, they’re three years into a cycle with Steve while we’re just getting started.”

Jones, who reinstalled his most experienced player Michael Leitch, 35 as captain, spoke of his admiration for the Brave Blossoms’ talismanic forward and shared his reasoning for reappointing him.

“There’s always a process in selecting a captain, you’ve got to see what sort of captain a team needs,” said Jones who started his coaching career in Japan at Tokai University in 1995.

“We have some senior players from the previous World Cup but with a young team we needed an experienced captain and Michael’s the standout choice and he’s in good form after winning League One with Toshiba Brave Lupus.”

Jones said he knew from the start of the Miyazaki training camp that Leitch would be his captain again and sees it as a long-term appointment.

“We want Michael to captain the team for as long as he can.

“As long as he’s selected he’s our captain and we want him to lead the team going forward.”

Jones’ bold team selection has dominated the build-up in the Japanese press with the previously out-of-favour Lee Seung-sin, 23, who played at outside-centre and full-back for Kobe Steelers this season, returning at fly-half.

Lee, who has 12 caps for Japan, is the best candidate to occupy the coveted 10 jersey for his country according to Jones who has an abundance of classy playmakers to choose from including Saitama’s Rikiya Matsuda and uncapped Suntory starlet Mikiya Takamoto.

“I was impressed by Lee but then he fell away a bit.

“He moved to 13 for his club Kobe but we always thought he could give us something different at 10.

“Matsuda is very experienced and very solid and he’ll be important for us. We’re just looking for someone with some different qualities to use in attack.

“Lee has trained well and has really grown in that period of time. It’s a great opportunity for him to step forward on Saturday.”


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