LONDON (Reuters) - As part of his preparations for six weeks of international rugby, England coach Eddie Jones will try to ensure his players avoid the “no fans, no fight” mentality he feels has contributed to some of the crazy scorelines peppering the Premier League.
Aston Villa’s 7-2 home win over Liverpool after Tottenham Hotspur won 6-1 at Manchester United on Sunday took the season’s tally to 144 goals in 38 games - 40 more goals than last year, at an average of 3.79 goals per game, the highest for 90 years.
Jones believes the absence of fans is probably the key factor, leading to players not responding to going behind or working as hard defensively as they usually would in front of a baying full house demanding a response.
“What I see in sport at the moment is that sides who are getting beaten lack a bit of fight,” the Australian told a news conference on Tuesday as he began the build up for England’s games against the Barbarians and then Italy in the Six Nations.
“So therefore you get the exaggeration of scores. Maybe the reason they don’t have so much fight – and I don’t know – is because they don’t see the consequences of defeat as strongly as maybe they would if crowds were there.”
Jones’s players have been operating in empty stadiums in rugby’s Premiership but it will feel even odder when they run out at Twickenham and Rome’s Olympic Stadium with just the voices of squad members, coaches and officials echoing around the vast stands.
“The big thing for us is to work on our togetherness, on how hard we’ve got to fight for each other,” he said.
“The other common feature is that the sides who have that togetherness and have that real fight stay in the battle when maybe the crowd gives you the reminder to do that – you have got to remind yourself now. That’s going to be a good thing for us.”
Sports psychologist Michael Caulfield agreed with Jones’s analysis, telling the BBC: “Football is a game based on threat, fear, and that has disappeared with no fans in the stadium.”
Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Ken Ferris
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