LONDON – Japan captain Michael Leitch insists his team will not kowtow to their former coach Eddie Jones at Twickenham on Saturday.
The England supremo has warned Japan to “go to the temple and pray” ahead of their reunion, but Leitch brushed off Jones’ comments.
“We don’t read anything into what’s been said,” insisted Leitch. “The great thing that Eddie did in Japanese rugby was change the mindset. The national team always accepted losing and he changed that and set us on the right track.
“We can’t accept losing, we can’t accept saying, ‘We did our best, but we lost’. We are not going to go there and bow down, we are going to go out there and win it.
“Every team will go out and bash us. We expect that. We expect them to bully us in the set-piece, bully us around the breakdown. It is nothing new.”
Leitch also worked closely with lineout expert Steve Borthwick, revealing his techniques are still in place today.
“Steve was fantastic - a guy I could really rely on,” said Leitch. “His expertise and leadership were things that really helped me in the four years in preparation for the World Cup. Some of that detail and some of the standards he brought into the team are still here.
“If your hands are in the wrong position, he would let you know about it. We still use some of his language today.”
Meanwhile, Jones was sticking to the party line this week when it came to his co-captain Dylan Hartley - reiterating that he was taken off at halftime against New Zealand because he was injured.
The official explanation for his very early exit from the showdown with the All Blacks was that the hooker had hurt his thumb and was struggling to bind in the scrum.
But it has been claimed initial guidance to broadcasters was that Hartley’s removal was “tactical” - and Jones did emphasise yesterday that he wants the 32-year-old to raise his game.
One way or another, the man whose influential leadership has been such a feature of the Jones regime is facing a challenge to his status.
He is now sharing the formal leadership duties which he did with such aplomb himself for so long, he had to battle his way through another concussion episode that raised doubts about his future, and his main rival for the England No 2 shirt, Jamie George, is being granted ever more game time. Sources have suggested that the management of Hartley may be Jones’ way of planning in case the veteran were to be injured before or during the World Cup.
In that event, the England coaches need George to have sufficient Test experience and Owen Farrell to be comfortable with captaincy.
While Farrell did much of the communicating with referee Jerome Garces last Saturday, it was Hartley who forcefully addressed the players in a post-match huddle.Daily Mail