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Head coach Jones humbled to lead England to World Cup

The Australian is ready to carry the hopes of a nation at the World Cup.

England head coach Eddie Jones feels the weight of expectation at the World Cup (Tim Goode/PA)
England head coach Eddie Jones feels the weight of expectation at the World Cup (Tim Goode/PA)

By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent, Sapporo

An emotional Eddie Jones choked back the tears as he reflected on what it meant to guide England into the 2019 World Cup.

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After four years spent outlining his intention of returning the Webb Ellis Trophy to Twickenham, that quest is finally about to begin when England collide with Tonga at the Sapporo Dome on Sunday.

In a rare display of feeling, the Australian head coach was forced to compose himself as he considered the significance of carrying a nation’s hopes.

“It’s humbling, mate. It’s a great honour to coach England. . . and. . I just want to make sure I do my best,” said Jones, who has named his strongest available side against Tonga.

“World Cups are always emotional. You get to do something that is pretty special. To coach a nation and to be responsible for a nation at a World Cup, where you know it’s not just rugby fans watching.

“Families watch World Cups, that’s the difference. It becomes an event for the country, rather than an event for rugby followers. It becomes an event for this country here. To be involved in that is a real honour.

“That’s the amazing thing about World Cups. You are playing seven rugby games so it’s no different than anything else, but it is in extraordinary circumstances.

“You go outside and there are spectators. There are Australian supporters, there are Fijian supporters, there are English supporters. It just creates a different atmosphere.”

Now that the defining phase of his England reign has arrived, Jones has braced fans a bumpy ride while promising that his squad have given everything during preparations for their quest to seize New Zealand’s Crown.

“My message to them would be ‘hang onto your seat’. They’re going to join us on the rollercoaster,” Jones said.

“The players have worked hard. Physically I haven’t seen them any better and off the field they’ve worked really hard to be a tight team.

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Owen Farrell will captain England against Tonga (Richard Sellers/PA)

“And that’s going to be tested in the World Cup because the World Cup is like a rollercoaster.

“We are at the top of the ride now and we are looking down – everyone’s nervous, everyone’s excited.

“You go down the first slope and you’re not sure if you are going to throw up or hang on.

“You’ve got to adapt to that and the players have equipped themselves to ride the rollercoaster because there’s going to be some turns, there’s going to be some accidents, there’s going to be some fun.

“We want to enjoy all of those things that come along and the team’s equipped to handle it.”

Only two changes have been made to the starting XV that toppled Ireland in record fashion at Twickenham last autumn, Anthony Watson coming in for Joe Cokanasiga on the right wing and Courtney Lawes displacing George Kruis at lock.

England are looking to launch their pursuit of glory with a statement performance against opponents who bookmakers predict will be swept aside with ease.

“Tonga will have them tight, they will have that ferocious pride. They are playing for more than just a game of rugby,” Jones said.

“They are playing for a small country that fights against the odds and players there are fighting for their livelihoods, we know it means a lot for them.

“We understand how much emotion and intensity will go into the game and we have to match that.

“But we want to take them on. We are England and we want to take them on up front so no one will come out of there guessing.”

PA

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