England Guard against complacency
Dylan Hartley and Eddie Jones have united to guard England against the threat of ego and acclaim halting their push for a glorious series whitewash over Australia.
Captain and coach fear the drive for victory at Allianz Stadium on Saturday might be imperilled by hubris after wins in Brisbane and Melbourne have seen the tourists add a major southern hemisphere scalp to the Grand Slam secured in March.
England are already celebrating one of the most successful years in their history and their finest since lifting the 2003 World Cup, but they know the danger of having their heads turned as they attempt to crush the Wallabies.
"I said after game one in Brisbane that we had to park the egos," captain Hartley said. "People write nice things. Friends, family - your extended network all want to say how good you are and say well done on the series. It's just inflating your ego and it can blind you. "We have all made a conscious effort to ignore that. You're only as good as your next game. The team have prepared like it's last week's game - a decider."
Hartley's words have been echoed by Jones, who stands one successful night away from a flawless opening spell as head coach that would total nine victories in as many outings. "When you've had a couple of wins praise can make you weak. Praise can definitely make you weak," Jones said. "We've got to be very careful that all the praise we're getting doesn't make us weak. If you become weak once you can become weak twice and to be a champion team you can't be like that.”
"When I've felt the players have needed sharpness I've given it to them. Outside praise is dangerous for a team and they've been getting a lot of it. We've just got to be careful. "Their attitude has been first-class. I couldn't be happier with the way they've prepared. At times we've maybe dropped off a little bit, but we're on the right track."
Jones indicated after Australia had been dispatched 23-7 at AAMI Park that he would adjust his starting XV to combat end-of-season fatigue, but the only change sees Teimana Harrison win his second cap in place of James Haskell, who has been ruled out by a foot injury.
Careful analysis of his players in training this week has convinced Jones that they have the energy to stage one last assault against the nation that sacked him as head coach in 2005. And the Australian insists that during his reign, caps must be won the hard way.
"We train tough. Every time we train the players are pitted against each other and they know they've got to perform. If you don't perform you've got no hope of getting picked," Jones said. "It's a tough environment that is all about winning. If you don't come up to the standard you're going to feel left out.”
"It comes down to the mental strength and desire of the player to want to be part of the England side.”
"I've always been of the opinion you should earn your cap. If players are fit, mentally right to play and the best player, you pick them. "You have to work hard to get a jersey and players don't want to give their jersey away. There are no free caps in the England side. "Just because we have won the series 2-0, it doesn't mean they deserve a cap. They have to work hard to beat the person in front of them."
Harrison starts at openside to end a breakthrough season at Northampton in the best possible way and while Jones admires a player he describes as a "streetfighter", he knows Haskell's injury reduces the power of the pack.
"Harrison is more of a ball-carrier than Haskell so gives us more in that area. It's up to the rest of the pack to pick up the physicality with Haskell gone," Jones said.
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