England defence coach John Mitchell has been praised for his role in making England a genuine World Cup threat by former England midfielder Will Greenwood.
Greenwood, who won the World Cup in 2003, told Radio Sport that Mitchell was continually tweaking England’s defensive strategies in a grand scheme to make the Eddie Jones-coached side the most “ferocious defensive unit” on the planet.
“When Eddie Jones took over in January 2016, they wanted to make themselves the most ferocious defensive unit on the planet,” he said.
“They are not there yet but are doing a pretty passable impression of it at the moment. It is ferocious out there.
“Life is about iterations, tweaking, adapting. They are not changing anything massively. They wanted line speed and have worked on it really well.”
Greenwood, capped 57 times internationally, was coached by Mitchell in the late 1990s when he assisted then-England head coach Sir Clive Woodward, and the 46-year-old revealed how intimidating the former All Blacks coach was.
“He used to always say ‘let the dog be the rabbit’ in a slightly different tone,” said Greenwood.
“It scared the living daylights out of me and certainly introduced to me what life was like in New Zealand in terms of the ferocity of your rucking. He was proper, proper tough.”
Following England’s impressive run in the Six Nations in the opening two rounds, Greenwood remained quietly optimistic of their World Cup chances come the end of the year, although he refused to discount the threats posed by New Zealand and Ireland.
“The All Blacks have set the bar in terms of of retaining credibility as the number one. Ireland had the most unbelievable year in 2018 but they are having a bit of a blip, a bit of a wobble.
“England were supercharged and went out and battered them on the gain line, but Ireland will come again.
“Ireland will finish the Six Nations strong and be ready for the World Cup. They had such a big year in 2018 and it is difficult to keep going to the well. But they will be a force to be reckoned with in Japan.
“I’ve upgraded England’s status — they will be in the semifinals and who can predict after that?”
Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell on facing Wales:
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