Eddie Jones hopes that the second semi-final between South Africa and Wales drains the energy of England’s final opponent. JON CARDINELLI in Yokohama reports.
England thumped the All Blacks 19-7 in Yokohama on Saturday to secure a place in the World Cup final. The manner in which they took the fight to New Zealand in the early stages was particularly impressive, as was their game management and composure at the death.
Jones was somewhat subdued when he attended the post-match media conference. England have not beaten the All Blacks since 2012 or qualified for a World Cup final since 2007. The coach, however, reminded all and sundry that England’s job is far from done.
‘We’re not historians, mate,’ he quipped after a reporter asked where the performance ranked in terms of famous England victories. ‘Give us another week,’ he added, suggesting that the best may be yet to come in the decider.
‘We know that we can play better than we did tonight. We will have to play better to beat Wales or South Africa [who will contest the second semi-final in Yokohama in Sunday].
‘Hopefully they will battle it out to a 3-3 draw after full-time,’ he joked. ‘Hopefully they will have to play extra time on top of extra time.’
A prolonged contest between Wales and South Africa will certainly suit England. The winner of the second semi-final will have only five days to prepare for the decider next Saturday.
Jones said that his charges will remain focused despite the big win over the All Blacks, who have dominated the game for the better part of a decade.
‘When we came together as a group for the first time four years ago, we said that we wanted to be the best team in the world. We’re not the best team yet, though. Next week, we will have an opportunity to prove that we are.’
Pushed for an explanation regarding how England beat the All Blacks, and how they beat the more fancied side via a high-tempo approach, Jones highlighted the mental and physical approach of the players.
‘The All Blacks are like the gods of rugby. We had to take it to them. We had to put them on the back foot as much as we could,’ he said.
‘The psychological approach to any game is increasingly important. It’s important to understand what gives them energy and take it away from them. On the other hand, you have to understand what gives us energy and work towards our strengths.
‘Our leaders were exceptional. We kept attacking where New Zealand are weak. We didn’t divert from that plan and we got the rewards.’
Captain Owen Farrell briefly explained why England had opted for a different formation when facing the haka. The approach summed up England’s mentality on the night.
‘We knew that we had to keep a respectful distance, but we didn’t want to just stand in a flat line and let them come at us,’ he said.
Jones had a special word for Steve Hansen, the most successful coach of the professional era. The All Blacks mentor will end his tenure with New Zealand after the third-place playoff next Friday.
‘We will catch up and have a drink,’ he chuckled. ‘Nothing has changed with regard to our relationship.
‘I first coached against him in 1997 when he was at the Crusaders and I was at the Brumbies. Steve will go down as one of the greatest All Blacks coaches. He always looks to see what’s best for the game. The game will miss him.
‘He’s going to come here to Japan and coach at Toyota, so you just know that there cars will run a bit faster. He’s a great coach.’
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