SAPPORO, Japan (Reuters) - England have waited four years to put the misery of 2015 behind them and while Tonga are unlikely to inflict more World Cup pain on Eddie Jones’s side on Sunday the coach knows only too well the dangers of underestimating opposition.
The last World Cup was one to forget for England as they became the first host nation to fail to reach the knockout rounds, but definitely one to remember for Jones, who guided Japan to a stunning upset win over twice champions South Africa.
Since taking the England job in November that year Jones has spent virtually every moment preparing the side for the campaign in Japan, where Tonga provide the most physical of tests in their Pool C opener at the Sapporo Dome.
Tonga were hammered 92-7 by the All Blacks in a World Cup warmup earlier this month but Jones is paying no heed to suggestions his side just need to turn up to win.
“At the moment, we are at the top of the roller-coaster and everyone is excited, and you get down to the bottom and you are not quite sure if you are going to throw up or hang on,” he told a media conference on Friday.
“The players have equipped themselves to ride the roller-coaster because there are going to be some turns, some accidents and some fun.”
Despite facing, on paper, their two toughest opponents, Argentina and France, in their final two pool games Jones has held nothing back for Tonga, picking a powerful, mobile side to go toe-for-toe with the Pacific Islanders.
Only lock George Kruis and winger Joe Cokanasiga are missing from the team that tore Ireland apart at Twickenham last month.
Tonga coach Toutai Kefu knows the odds are stacked against his side. The Tongans have played England twice before at the World Cup, losing 36-20 in 2007 and 101-10 in 1999.
“This is a massive challenge for us, but we have nothing to lose and I think England are under more pressure than us,” he said on Friday, adding that the strength of Jones’s squad was plain to see.
“He’s picked a very strong team, but is there a weak England team? I don’t think there is with this squad.”
Kefu does hold the head-to-head advantage over his England counterpart though. As caretaker coach of Tonga at the 2012 Pacific Nations Cup, Kefu engineered a 24-20 win over a Jones-coached Japan.
Rather than remind Jones of that encounter, however, Kefu has decided to let sleeping dogs lie.
“I saw him earlier in the week, but I didn’t bring it up. I didn’t want to get him angry,” he added.
“We had a good laugh and I tried to get his team out of him.”
Editing by Toby Davis