JOHN Mitchell surprisingly suggests Wales may have done England “a nice favour” by bringing them back down to Six Nations earth with a nasty bump in Cardiff.
For while the Principality Stadium defeat ended the team’s Grand Slam bid and dented their title chances, Mitchell believes the setback can also act as a wake up call in the bid for success in Japan.
England’s New Zealand-born defence coach is a firm believer in taking the positives from on-field adversity, especially from highly pressurised occasions such as last Saturday.
He claims the failure of the team to react well as the game drifted away during that disappointing second half showed everyone involved just how much there is still to improve and work on if they want to enjoy World Cup success.
“It was a proper Test match and arm wrestle which Wales won, but it came down to controlling certain situations and we failed to do that,” said the former All Blacks boss.
“In many respects, Wales have done us a nice favour. When you lose an important game you are always going to be a bit more introspective in terms of post performance.
“There is always the danger of believing you are this or that when everything is going well and people are saying nice things. It’s human nature.
“On the other hand you are not going to let one game change how you are going to go about things. We have standards and expectations within the team which individuals have to meet, and there will be no dropping of those. That’s what good teams do.”
Mitchell expects a huge response from captain Owen Farrell and co. when they walk out to face the Azzurri at Twickenham on Saturday. But he does not expect a repeat of two years ago when the Italians sparked controversy by standing off and refusing to contest the rucks.
Italy have given Wales, Scotland and Ireland a tough time so far in this tournament without success and Mitchell insists: “It doesn’t matter who we are playing because the motivation and challenge for us is to react positively to what happened in Cardiff.
“These guys are highly motivated and are very enjoyable to coach because they want to get better.
“When playing any opposition you have to expect the unexpected. You have to be alert and to understand the implications of what the unexpected might me.
“Italy will come with something and let’s hope it is positive because you want to be tested in various aspects of your game.
“There are not too many minutes left before the big tournament at the end of the road in Japan, so we’ve got to adapt to different challenges that come. So whatever comes this weekend at Twickenham we have to be ready for it.”
GARY FITZGERALD / Photo: Getty Images
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