22 September 2019 16:52
Manu Tuilagi scored England's first two tries in victory over Tonga It matters how you start a World Cup but not as much as how you finish it. Eddie Jones has been deep in enough of these ding-dongs to realise that, and his grin after England's stuttering 35-3 win over England on Sunday was that of a man who knows that he has the time and opportunity to find much more. He will have to search for it after a performance that was less of a charge on to the World Cup stage than a slightly apologetic stumble through the opening curtain. You can win games against struggling teams like Tonga and still feel like you have lost a little. After England had given away a needless penalty for offside after a restart when Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola tried something unnecessarily funky, the big screens in the corner of the Sapporo Dome showed a close-up of the Australian twice thumping the table in front of him with mute fury.
If it was reminiscent of the moment when one of his predecessors, Martin Johnson, was caught almost punching a hole in his own leg after a Danny Care transgression in Dublin a decade ago, it illustrated too that the face Jones shows to his players behind closed doors may not always be benevolent. Johnson's own reign as England coach was ended by a World Cup campaign that fell apart rapidly after a similarly unflattering opening game, that time a squeaky one-try win over Argentina in Dunedin. Jones understands that, like Johnson, his time at the helm will be judged by what happens on the biggest stage of all. Fail at a World Cup and you go - as Johnson did in the aftermath of 2011, as Stuart Lancaster did after the calamity of 2015. Johnson's regime ended with the 20-year-old Manu Tuilagi jumping off a ferry into Auckland harbour, the last of several moments of off-field scandal.
You can cruise through some of the group stage but the knock-out games are decided by small moments and big displays. Tuilagi has always had the potential to be a player like that and England will need him to be. Jones was keen to point out afterwards that England have now played 160 minutes of Test rugby without conceding a try, less to highlight the fact that those matches were against teams who few expect to escape the group stage here in Japan was pushed to one side. With the similarly spirited yet limited USA to come on Thursday in Kobe, England have time to pick up pace and direction. "You go with all the best intentions to be sharp, you've got a picture in your head that says you're going to play some rugby and it doesn't end up like that. ENGLAND are in Japan looking to win their first Rugby World Cup since 2003. Eddie Jones' side are in Japan and looking to make a strong start to the tournament - with Billy Vunipola in the starting line-up against Tonga. 2 Billy Vunipola cant wait to face Tonga in England's opening game Credit: Getty Images - Getty Is Billy Vunipola Tongan? BOTH Billy and brother Mako Vunipola are set to play a big part in England's World Cup bid this autumn. Billy began his career at Wasps, but currently plays for Saracens and made his England debut in 2013. He heads to Japan having won 45 caps and scoring 35 tries for his country. His brother Mako is also at Saracens and made his England bow a year earlier in 2012. 2 Mako and Billy are the sons of a former Tongan captain Credit: Getty - Contributor Billy was born in Australia and Mako was born in New Zealand - and are the sons of former Tongan captain Feʻao Vunipola. Fe'ao and his wife Iesinga settled in the area and raised Billy and Mako in the country. As a result, both players are eligible to play for Tonga, Wales and England - but opted to play for the Red Rose after starring in the youth teams. And Billy can't wait to line up against Tonga in England's World Cup opener having never faced them before in internationals. He told the Evening Standard: "It will be the first time [I will have played] against Tonga if I'm selected. "For us as a group, though, there are bigger goals than just playing against Tonga, no disrespect to them. We want to win this thing, we want to be serious about that and put it out there that we do want to win [the World Cup]." Eddie Jones wife: Meet wonderful woman who keeps England Rugby World Cup coach in check Eddie Jones leads England at the Rugby World Cup this autumn with the Webb Ellis Trophy firmly in his sights. Jones is a divisive figure in the world of rugby and has earned his fair share of praise and criticism during his career. He says his wife, Hiroko, keeps him in his place, though. Who is Eddie Jones married to? England's Rugby World Cup head coach Jones is married to his wife, Hiroko. Jones, who was part of the Australia's World Cup coaching setup in 2003, taught geography, while his wife specialised in Japanese. The couple have a daughter together, named Chelsea, and have been based in England ever since Jones took the head coach job in 2015. Eddie Jones was pictured with his wife Hiroko at Wimbledon back in 2017 What has Eddie Jones said about his wife? Back in 2016, Jones made a point of warning his England team about the dangers of complacency. He was asked, at a time when he was urging his team to stay level-headed, who keeps him in check. England's Rugby World Cup coach Eddie Jones says his wife Hiroko keeps him in check