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Rugby | Springboks

Jonny May © Getty Images

England focus on discipline

Jonny May agrees that it spoils the fun when you score a memorable solo try but your team loses the game so it is understandable that the England wing might be more than just a little concerned about the poor discipline that let his team down last week.

England dominated the early parts of the Emirates Airlines Park test that opened the three game series against the Springboks and led 24-3 at one point but May’s great try near the end was not enough to prevent them going down 42-39. Their coach Eddie Jones pinpointed the penalty count as the reason that the Boks were given a get out of jail free card, and it wasn’t the first time that it has happened.

England believe they surrendered the Six Nations title that was theirs in the early part of the Jones reign as coach because of poor discipline, and according to May, there has been much talk about it this week and also during the game last Saturday.

“It is always a great feeling to score for your country but it is a team game and while we produced some great stuff out there it was disappointing to lose a game we really felt we should have won so we need to get out there and rectify that,” said May.

“We surprised ourselves with how good our attacking game was early on. Eddie told us afterwards that it was the best 20 minutes he has seen us play. Eddie has also been around a lot as a coach and he told us he has never seen a team stick it to the Springboks at Ellis Park like we did in the first 20 minutes. So obviously that was very encouraging.

“We went out there with an attacking mindset and our attacking play was good but we didn’t get our hands on the ball for nearly 60 minutes and we just gave away too many penalties. You can’t give away 17 penalties, it’s too much.”

According to May, the discipline issue is taking top priority for England in the build-up to the Bloemfontein test.

“This is a real tight group of players, we want to win and we are desperate to be the best,” he said.

“We have spoken about discipline before and of course this has happened before too. We think back to the Six Nations. We had a big meeting last night and the theme of the meeting was discipline. There is a sort of butterfly effect when you give away penalties and we discussed that.

“If you go back to the Ireland game (in the Six Nations) it was a case of us giving away a penalty, setting up a line out and then boom there’d be another kick and they’d score a try.

“We don’t want to give away penalties but it is up to us to fix it. Skipper Owen Farrell and the leadership group around him led the discussion on discipline. We spoke about it a lot during the game. When we were behind the posts we spoke about it and resolved not to get too involved in the breakdowns as the risk of giving away penalties was so great.

“It’s all about the chaos theory at the breakdown. It is so easy to give away a penalty there as there are so many things you can get wrong. Penalties can change the game. One penalty can change the game, but back to back penalties can be a real killer.”

May said it was a tough one to take but that the areas that let the visitors down on Saturday were areas that could be fixed.

“It’s up to go out and do that on Saturday. We want to win the series and it is still in our hands to do that. South Africa will be looking at themselves in the same way as we are. They definitely won’t be happy with the first 20 minutes. Both teams will probably be a lot tighter this time.”

The England wing said that despite the defeat in Johannesburg, the tourists were confident they could win in Bloemfontein even though the first test was one of the hardest games he’s played in.

“It was a fast, tough game in terms of running metres and contact and it is the reason we haven’t been on the training field until today (Tuesday). We go out there with the mentality to attack, but you can’t give away 17 penalties. When we did attack again in the last 15 minutes though we scored some more tries so we are confident about our attacking game.

“Fortunately the things that went wrong in Johannesburg are things we can fix. We just need to be more direct and adapt on the pitch. We are about playing to the space and we did that when we had the ball last Saturday.

“As a team we don’t think about the five losses in a row, what we want to do is win this series. We know what is at stake on Saturday but we don’t want to be too desperate as it may work against us if we are trying too hard. If we just fix the things we can fix we are confident we can get the result we need.”


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