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England hit half-century against Japan to punish ex-boss Eddie Jones

By PA
England players pose with the trophy following their 52-17 victory in the international rugby union match between Japan and England at the National Stadium in Tokyo on June 22, 2024. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

Marcus Smith shone as England inflicted a crushing defeat on their former head coach Eddie Jones to give their summer tour lift off in Tokyo’s National Stadium.

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Japan were overwhelmed 52-17 in their first match since Jones was placed back in charge, with England amassing eight tries until the strike rate dried up in the face of a final-quarter surge from the hosts.

A pleasing performance saw Steve Borthwick’s men pick-up where they left off in the Six Nations by playing smart and ambitious rugby that was well executed, particularly close to the whitewash.

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Smith was at the heart of the enterprise shown, justifying his selection ahead of Fin Smith by orchestrating play intelligently until he was replaced having been shown a yellow card in the 55th minute.

Tougher challenges lie ahead on tour in the form of two Tests against New Zealand, who will give Smith far less room to work his magic than an accommodating Japan defence, but the Harlequins fly-half pointed to a future that does not include George Ford and Owen Farrell.

Fixture
Internationals
Japan
17 - 52
Full-time
England
All Stats and Data

Borthwick will have taken satisfaction from winning his personal duel with Jones, his former boss with England and Japan, but the match ended on a sour note when Charlie Ewels’ yellow card for a dangerous clear out was upgraded to red.

Ewels became the nation’s first player to be sent off twice following his dismissal in his last international against Ireland two years ago.

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There was early evidence of the humidity that England had trained for as the ball squirted out of the hands of both sides, but Japan made the faster start that was rewarded with a penalty from fly-half Seungsin Lee.

The tourists’ first meaningful attack produced a try, however, as a series of pick and goes underlined the greater carrying power of their forwards until the excellent Chandler Cunningham-South muscled over with help from Ben Earl.

A slick line-out move that saw Jamie George find Ollie Lawrence with a long throw ended when Smith ghosted through the midfield to score and the Harlequin then turned provider with a long pass for Immanuel Feyi-Waboso.

Smith was at the heart of England’s growing control of the game, also catching the eye with a 50-22, and pleasingly for Borthwick every visit to the 22 saw their lead increase.

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His vision sent a leaping Henry Slade over via a crossfield kick in another clinical finish and the second half was only two minutes old when Alex Mitchell exploited a gap around the ruck to glide over.

Japan launched a rare attack that was foiled by a Sam Underhill turnover and the home defence was then back in grave peril as Smith pinned them back with a kick that was followed by Feyi-Waboso and Dan Cole going close.

Earl succeeded soon after, helped by an offload from Mitchell who sucked in two tacklers, but England then had to regroup when Smith was sent to the sin-bin for an early tackle on Yoshitaka Yazaki.

Despite being a man down, scrum-half Harry Randall darted over with ease and he was joined off the bench by Tom Curry, who was making his first Test appearance since the World Cup because of hip surgery.

The replacements streamed off England’s bench and Japan took advantage of the comings and goings to run in classy tries through Koga Nezuka and Samisoni Tua.

But there was one last try for Underhill as England finished with 14 men, Ewels taking Michael Leitch out low resulting in a yellow and then red card.

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3 Comments
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finn 27 days ago

Incredible attacking game from Marcus Smith (he had a really poor defensive showing but that’s probably a fluke - he’s normally good there) but it did highlight the reasons why many of us favour Fin.

Everytime Marcus got the ball he did something amazing with it, but most of England’s phase attacks were just Mitchell getting the forwards to truck it up while Marcus waited for openings to appear. It wasnt until his yellow card that England actually started making ground through passing it through Fin/Furbank/Slade's hands to generate quick ruck ball in wide channels.

None of this is a problem if England plan is to mainly attack off first phase ball, or if we keep getting presented by such leaky defences, but I thought Borthwick wanted to dominate the attack more thoroughly than that.

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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