England coach Eddie Jones says they are shutting out the noise in the media ahead of the World Cup final on Saturday.
England face the Springboks in a repeat of the 2007 finale when South Africa emerged as winners. Jones’ side could claim England’s first World Cup title since 2003. The achievement could also cap a fine year in England sport, with their national cricket team winning the World Cup this year.
There has, therefore, been plenty made in the English media about the opportunity that awaits their rugby team in Yokohama.
‘There has been no higher expectation than within the team,’ Jones said. ‘We started out the first day wanting to be the best team in the world. So that’s where we wanted to go.
‘Three weeks ago, we were hopeless: I was going to get the sack, Owen couldn’t kick a goal. So we don’t tend to listen to that noise, as important as the media is, we don’t tend to listen to it. The other thing we are worried about is within the team.
Jones named an unchanged starting lineup for the final, with captain Owen Farrell continuing his midfield partnership with Manu Tuilagi, while George Ford starts at flyhalf after playing from the bench in the quarter-final against Australia.
While there is plenty of pressure on England, Jones added that they are not daunted by the challenge of overpowering the Springboks to claim the Webb Ellis trophy.
‘We’re having a great time, we want it to continue, but it comes to an end – so we’ve got one more opportunity to play well. So we want to play with no fear on Saturday, just get out there and play the game. We know South Africa aren’t going to give us the game, they are going to come hard. We’ve got to meet their physicality but we are looking forward to that and being able to impose our game on them.
‘We can definitely play better, there’s no doubt about it. The players know that. I have been so impressed by the preparation of players throughout the tournament and particularly this week. There’s a steeliness about them but also a nice relaxed feeling, because they know they’ve done the work so they can get on with the job.
‘It’s all to happen on Saturday, isn’t it? That’s the great thing. We are like any team; we are a bit anxious, a bit nervous but also very excited about the prospect of playing even better. We just have to go out and play. The great thing for us is we know we’ve done the preparation, we’re ready for this occasion. We’ve spent four years getting ready for this occasion.
‘That’s why the players can be relaxed, that’s why I can be relaxed because we know we’ve done the work, but we are not relaxed about knowing what’s in front of us. We know South Africa’s going to come hard. They’ve got a history of being the most-physically intimidating team in the world, so we’ve got to take that away from them.’
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