Eddie Jones wants England to ‘light up’ Twickenham crowd in New Zealand showdown

Eddie Jones insists England are determined to “light up” Twickenham by hunting for New Zealand in Saturday’s main event of the autumn.

Jones has made three personnel changes for the All Blacks’ first visit to London for five years by recalling number eight Billy Vunipola, centre Manu Tuilagi and wing Jack Nowell.

Vunipola and Tuilagi started the rivals’ most recent clash at the 2019 World Cup semi-final when England emerged emphatic 19-7 winners having earlier faced the Haka with an audacious V-shape formation.

It was a thrilling moment of sporting theatre that preceded one of the great performances in English rugby history and Jones has promised another spectacle.

“We’ve got a responsibility to light the crowd up. We want to light the crowd up and whether it’s during the Haka or post the Haka, I don’t really care,” Jones said.

“The fans can be our 24th player. The noise the crowd made against Japan last Saturday was fantastic.

“The players felt the warmth and pride that the crowd brought and now it’s our responsibility to light them up.”

Reflecting on where teams go wrong against New Zealand, Jones said: “It’s always in the head, it’s always in the head. You either make a decision to go at them or you’re going to be a spectator.”

Fixtures against All Blacks have become so rare – England have met New Zealand only twice since 2014 – that Saturday’s collision has generated excitement through its sheer scarcity value.

Jones has repeatedly referenced England’s win ratio of 19 per cent against the traditional powerhouse of the sport – comprised of eight wins and one draw in 42 games – to illustrate the challenge that awaits.

“Everyone’s excited. This is like if you’re a mountain climber going to the top of Mount Everest,” Jones said.

“New Zealand are historically the most successful team in world rugby and the team you want to play against.

“It takes a massive effort to beat them and our players understand that. We’re prepared for it. We’re going after them, they’re not coming after us.”

England face the Haka before their 2019 World Cup semi-final
England face the Haka before their 2019 World Cup semi-final (Adam Davy/PA)

The All Blacks enter the match armed with a six-Test winning run, but prior to that they had lost six out of their previous eight games to jeopardise the future of head coach Ian Foster.

“We expect the best version of them. It’s the last game of their tour and they want to finish the tour well,” Jones said.

“It’s been a tough old year for them in which they’ve had a lot of criticism, but they ended up winning the Rugby Championship so they did well and that shows how much they can get their mind on the job.

“The history of New Zealand rugby is that once they’ve been beaten by someone, they want to right that and this is obviously the next opportunity they’ve got since the World Cup.

“They’ve got to put pictures of being with the family on the beach, water-skiing, all those beautiful things in New Zealand out of their heads. Sometimes that can be hard, but they’re a good enough team to do that.”

Marcus Smith continues at fly-half for England
Marcus Smith continues at fly-half for England (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Jones has taken a risk by picking Sam Simmonds at blindside flanker, meaning that along with Vunipola England will have two specialist number eights in the back row.

Marcus Smith continues at fly-half as he searches for the exit from a dip in form, but Jones believes the 23-year-old is experiencing natural teething problems for an emerging player in his position.

“When you’re a young 10 coming through, you start and everyone gets excited, and then the game teaches you that it’s not all about excitement,” he said.

“There’s tough periods in the game, and I haven’t seen a 10 in world rugby not experience it.

“Marcus is going through this extraordinarily quick development as a player. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 10 develop as quickly as him.

“He understands there are ups and downs, he understands there is praise and there is criticism, and you have got to accept it.”