September 24, 2018
Sports

Eddie Jones leads autumn fine tuning as big guns turn focus to Japan | Paul Rees

The end-of-year internationals were once viewed in isolation but these days every match is a station on a train trip that ends at the 2019 World Cup

Possession is once again nine 10ths of the score. A decade that started with teams scared of being caught in possession has relented: the ball is spending more time in hands than in the air and fireworks this November should explode beyond the fifth of the month.

Rugby moves in cycles with fashions not so much changing as re-emerging after a vacation. When Eddie Jones was in charge of Australia in the 2000s, they were the masters of taking play through any number of phases, 30 or 40 at a time, waiting for the opposition to make an error. Today they have reincarnated into Exeter, a team who are comfortable starting a move near their own line and patiently working its way down the field, aware that attacks are given more latitude at the breakdown than defences.

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