March 25, 2023

Owen Farrell has stated that England are aiming for a liberation against Japan on Saturday – by trying to stop worrying and overthinking, and by playing instinctively again.

Eddie Jones named a starting XV with five changes, following Sunday’s shocking defeat to Argentina in the fall opener. England have been revamped to pick up pace – notably with the addition of Jonny May, Sam Simmonds and Jack van Poortvliet – but there is an awareness that the primary improvement must be a mental one.

By losing to the Pumas, the English camp has recognized the urgent need to clean up the messy ghost. As he prepares for a 99th appearance for his country, Captain Farrell admitted it’s time to shed a sense of collective fear and tension. Being hurt doesn’t help.

Owen Farrell has stated that England is seeking a liberation from Japan

“We don’t want to think too much, which we may have been a little guilty of last weekend,” said the Saracens playmaker, who continues his 10-12 partnership with Marcus Smith, unperturbed by outside doubts about their alliance.

‘We want to free ourselves. We talked about that this week and we’ll try to build that up to Saturday.

‘It’s about letting go that little bit more. Not worrying about anything – trying to be free, but being in control the next moment. If we do, it will leave us in a good place and hand it over to the crowd and they will be behind us.

“If we can get a little bit more of that mentality and not worry too much about maybe making a mistake…I don’t know, I’m not in everyone’s head, but then we can attack that moment a little more.”

England’s attacking ambitions will be bolstered by May’s recall, who has completed an astonishing recovery after dislocating his elbow while playing for Gloucester against London Irish three weeks ago.

Farrell admitted he was surprised to find the wing quickly rejoined the squad last week. Like everyone else, he assumed May would not participate in this November campaign.

“I didn’t go to Jersey (training camp) so I didn’t really know there was a chance,” said the skipper. ‘When I came to the camp last Monday, I was staying with him. That was a bit of a shock, suddenly he’s all right.

“He was lucky he didn’t do more damage than he did, but he will always do the right rehab. He is incredibly professional. He leaves no stone unturned.’

Wing Jonny May has completed an amazing recovery after dislocation of his elbow

Wing Jonny May has completed an amazing recovery after dislocation of his elbow

Jones admitted he feared May would miss not only the fall games, but also the Six Nations. The 32-year-old was unavailable for the final Six Nations due to a knee injury, and after being fully fit again for the summer tour of Australia, he tested positive for Covid on arrival Down Under and did not play a minute of the three Tests against the Wallabies .

Asked what form he can expect from May, Jones said: “We’ve had a few training runs with him and he looks pretty sharp but he hasn’t played a serious game of Test rugby in a long time so we’ll have to wait and see. He is a high quality player who prepares diligently so every time he is available he is an option. He’s been first-class.’

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Lack of playing time is currently a major problem for several English stars – some due to injuries, some due to club selection rotation and some due to match cancellations due to the collapse of Wasps and Worcester. Jones said: ‘A lot of our players don’t play much rugby.

“We have a few guys who have come into camp and haven’t played for four weeks. Usually we have the opposite and now we have this intriguing problem. I have no control over it or have anything to say about it. We have to make the most of it.’

Van Poortvliet has certainly not been overplayed by Leicester so far this season, but he starts after an instant, try-scoring effect from the bench last weekend.

Sam Simmonds and Jack van Poortvliet (above) have been selected to add tempo

Sam Simmonds and Jack van Poortvliet (above) have been selected to add tempo

When asked why he chose the rookie Tiger over Test centurion Ben Youngs, Jones’ answer summed up his selection philosophy for this game. “He’s faster,” said the head coach.

Simmonds will similarly add pace at number 8 and Jones confirmed the Montpellier-bound forward would be available for the World Cup next year. David Ribbans is expected to add punch to the home pack on his second-row debut, while Guy Porter’s midfield start reflects the England leadership’s desire to manage Manu Tuilagi’s workload. The sales center is one of the replacements.

Meanwhile, Japanese coach Jamie Joseph outlined the sense of anticipation among his squad after coming close to an upset New Zealand win in Tokyo late last month.

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“We see England as a very different opposition to the All Blacks,” Joseph said.

“It’s a cauldron in Twickenham and it can be intimidating if you’re not ready, but I think our boys are. I don’t think anyone expects us to win, but we motivated 23 guys to do well.”