Jacob Whitehead looks at how Eddie Jones and his team can take lessons from their cricketing counterparts
Five things England can learn from the Cricket World Cup
England win the 2019 World Cup. Twice? After the England cricket team triumphed at Lord’s attention will turn to their rugby counterparts, who launch their campaign for World Cup glory in September.
Of course, England’s cricketers dealt with the pressures of a home World Cup much better than the Stuart Lancaster’s men four years ago, overcoming a shaky week to eventually triumph in an epic. This begs the question: what can Eddie Jones’s current crop learn from Eoin Morgan’s side?
In a tournament which will come down to marginal gains, who better to learn from than a side who won a global tournament in the most marginal manner possible? Therefore, with no further ado, here are five things England’s rugby team can learn from the cricketing victory…
Things will go wrong
Back in 2015, England could not shrug off the disappointment of a loss to Wales to regroup and beat Australia. It was as if they were so shocked by defeat in a game they’d widely been expected to win after beating Wales in Cardiff in that year’s Six Nations that they were mentally not quite ready for the Australian challenge.
Five victories after the Wales loss would have seen England lift the Webb Ellis Cup that year something which England’s cricketers managed to do en route to victory. Losses to Sri Lanka and Australia left them on the brink of an early exit, but they overcame these results admirably to triumph.
In Japan, England are in a fairly tough pool, with France and Argentina the main dangers. They need to remember that the very real possibility of defeat by either doesn’t signal the end of their tournament and observe how the cricket team reacted to unforeseen adversity.
The value of leadership
Eoin Morgan would be the first to say he wasn’t one of England’s top performers with the bat at this World Cup. But he has been their most pivotal player, captaining the side with aplomb, cajoling them away from the ignominy of an early exit, managing his bowlers brilliantly and making the brave decision to give Jofra Archer the opportunity to bowl the pivotal Super Over.
A similar analogy could be drawn between Morgan and Martin Johnson, who led the 2003 England vintage. At the age of 33, Johnson was possibly outshone by his back row in the tournament, but his leadership and management of referees was invaluable.
Owen Farrell is undoubtedly one of England’s leading lights, but he is an inexperienced leader, and still needs to work on how he interacts with officials. He would do well to give Morgan a phone call in the coming weeks.
Fast starts – and how to stay on top
England’s cricketers effectively faced four knockout games in the World Cup, as they had to face India and New Zealand to qualify for the semi-finals, before playing Australia and the Kiwis once more to lift the trophy. In the first three of these opening pair Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy put together century partnerships, whilst in the final Chris Woakes took an early wicket – and England won each game.
Eddie Jones’s team do not seem to struggle with starting quickly. Against both Ireland and France Jonny May scored in the second minute, England were 10-3 up at half-time against Wales, and they dotted down in the first ten minutes against Italy and Scotland. They were 15-0 up against the All Blacks in November, and held large leads early against South Africa on their summer tour last year.
The problem is that England’s rugby team are just as good at losing leads as they are at accumulating them. Wales, New Zealand and South Africa all came back to win those games, whilst England were lucky to escape with a 38-38 draw against Scotland in the Six Nations.
English cricketers are famous for sudden collapses after decent starts, but largely managed to halt this in the World Cup. Is it mental? Is it purely pressure? Jones should try to find out.
Eoin Morgan’s answer in a press conference that “We had Allah with us” has been lauded. Morgan celebrated that England had players from “quite diverse backgrounds (and) cultures, and guys growing up in different countries”.
The rugby team are similar. Manu Tuilagi and the Vunipola brothers boast Samoan and Tongan heritage respectively, Willi Heinz and Ben Te’o were both brought up in New Zealand, whilst Ellis Genge has spoken eloquently about the prejudice he felt he faced coming from a working-class background.
Yet the team’s diversity does not seem to have been celebrated. When the RFU speak of heritage, they do so accompanied with Saint George’s Crosses.
The need to rotate (or not?)
England’s cricket team was unchanged in their last four matches, with only two changes made over the course of the tournament. One was based on form – Moeen Ali was dropped for Liam Plunkett – whilst the other was injury-enforced, as James Vince briefly replaced Jason Roy.
Obviously a Rugby World Cup is far more physical, and injuries are to be expected. It is extremely unlikely that Eddie Jones will be able to pick an unchanged team, even if he wanted to. However, England’s cricketing triumph shows that there is a lot to be said for allowing partnerships to prosper, for giving players the confidence to take risks, knowing that a mistake will not see them automatically dropped.
Perhaps England should see the pool matches against USA and Tonga as a chance to hone the skills of their first-choice XV, rather than experiment at the 11th hour.
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