England must be clever to start Rugby World Cup off well against Tonga – Jason Robinson | Rugby | Sport


I like the look of this England team. It is not far from being Eddie Jones’s best side and I expect them to put away Tonga by 30 points tomorrow.

There was so much talk for so-long about England never having a scavenger at No 7 and playing two six and a halves instead but now, with Tom Curry and Sam Underhill together, they have two specialists on the field at once.

It was other teams that had players like Michael Hooper and David Pocock but all of a sudden we have two young lads with lots of energy who can do a really good job. I think that’s a massive advantage for the World Cup.

What was one of England’s Achilles heels in now one of their strengths. You need someone there trying to get turnovers and slowing opposition ball down. These two are mobile, powerful and aren’t afraid to put their head where it hurts.

I’m expecting some turnovers from these two against Tonga and with that sort of ball England can use their pace to good effect.

If England want to be the best at this World Cup they have to play like the best so it’s important that they make a big start.

A World Cup is a unique event with unique pressures and England wouldn’t be human if they didn’t feel them ahead of kick-off.

But it’s also important that the players feel able to enjoy what they are part of as they chase their dream. A strong start will help them do that.

New Zealand put 90 on the Tongans earlier this month but I can’t see that happening in Sapporo. This is the World Cup and this game will be their final. They will be piling into England.

These matches against proud Pacific Island nations can be difficult as we found out in 2003 when Samoa gave us the hurry-up in the group stages.

The key for England is not to get sucked into a smash-it-up battle. Tonga can do some damage so England have to play it smartly.

England will have the stronger setpiece so they need to take Tonga to the cleaners in that area. They also have more options in their backline with the side Eddie has picked.

The Tongans will be lining up Ford and Farrell so they have to be the matadors, tempting their opponents before playing out the back to use England’s pace out wide.

I like the fact that they have gone for Anthony Watson on the wing as not only is he quick but with Elliot Daly behind him that gives them two full-backs on the field.

If Daly gets caught in the line there is a ready-made replacement to clean up at the back. That can make a big difference to a team’s confidence.

It’s what Josh Lewsey and I used to do for England.

People say that under a high ball Daly isn’t world class but even Leigh Halfpenny misses some. He might not always be in exactly the right position but he has shown he can take high balls.

He’s great on the front foot, he’s got good hands and a lot of pace but his x-factor is that huge left boot.

At the 2007 World Cup Percy Montgomery gave South Africa a huge advantage because of his range with his left foot and Daly does the same for England both in open-field play and from the tee.

Usually sides are careful not to concede penalties within 40m or so of their own posts because of the risk of giving away points but with Daly there that goes up to 55m.

Hopefully penalties won’t be a big factor in this game but they are sure to come into play down the line.

Jason is an ambassador for Fuzion100, the official rehydration partner of England Rugby. Find out more at CoCofuzion100.co.uk.

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