Mako Vunipola Rugby World Cup 2019: Should England lose to France to avoid the All Blacks?

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Eddie Jones appears prepared to follow in the footsteps of Gareth Southgate and rotate his England side against France even if it costs them the match, with defeat ensuring they avoid New Zealand until the Rugby World Cup final.” data-reactid=”25″ type=”text”>Eddie Jones appears prepared to follow in the footsteps of Gareth Southgate and rotate his England side against France even if it costs them the match, with defeat ensuring they avoid New Zealand until the Rugby World Cup final.

Saturday’s 39-10 victory over Argentina guaranteed England a place in the last eight, with next weekend’s Anglo-French duel now a shootout for top spot in Pool C after France defeated Tonga 23-21 on Sunday, leaving the two untouchable ahead of the final round of fixtures.

But even though England could record their sixth consecutive victory if they triumph at the International Stadium Yokohama and take that momentum into the quarter-finals with them, Jones is set to make sweeping changes to his squad.

“At this stage, I’ll be looking to pick our best 23,” Jones said ahead of ‘Le Crunch’. “Now, our best 23 may be different from your best 23.”

Asked if the team will look similar to the one that thrashed 14-man Argentina, Jones added: “I doubt it very much. I think we can improve the team. That’ll be the challenge: how can we improve the team?

“Kick defence – we are a bit disappointed that we were unable to put more pressure on Argentina in that area. That’s something we could work on. Breakdown work – we gave a couple of balls away. We’ve got to be a bit better in our support play.

“I said that we are 15 points from three games; we are where we need to be and we haven’t played to our best yet – which is good, because we’ve got growth and that’s what this competition is about. It’s about growing, it’s about building, it’s about being right when you need to be right.”

Why Gareth Southgate’s lead?

At the 2018 Fifa World Cup, Southgate made eight changes to his starting England line-up for a match where Belgium manager Roberto Martinez also made nine changes, confirming that victory was not the top priority. England went on to lose 1-0, ensuring they avoided Brazil and France in the knockout stage.

Something similar could well happen on Saturday, with France also expected to make a number of changes having already qualified for the last eight, and whoever loses the match will be confirmed as Pool C runners up and likely face Wales in the quarter-finals, with the pool winners meeting Australia instead.

However, it’s the semi-finals that could be Jones’s focus, as if England do finish second, they would not be able to play the All Blacks until the World Cup final at the earliest, increasing the likelihood of another team knocking out the reigning world champions before they could face off with England.

So should Jones do it?

On the face of it, rotating the team with the desire to win it and top the pool seems to be best and most sensible option. England saw what could happen with Billy Vunipola on Saturday, who in his 12th consecutive start limped off at half-time with an ankle injury that England are confident will not be serious.

However, it would be an unnecessary risk for the Australian to play his front-line lieutenants such as captain Owen Farrell, fly-half George Ford, centre Manu Tuilagi and lock Maro Itoje in case much worse happens. In fact, five of the squad have started every match so far in Japan in Ford, Joe Marler, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola and Elliot Daly, and it w

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