Eddie Jones believes his England squad are ‘relaxed’ ahead of the World Cup Final and there is a sense of quiet confidence in the Red Rose camp as they step up preparations to face South Africa.
While the occasion that lies ahead of captain Owen Farrell and his team-mates is the ultimate peak of any Test career, they do not appear in danger of suffering from vertigo. Nor are they showing any trace of euphoria in the aftermath of their remarkable, historic victory over the All Blacks.
The party line following that epic semi-final performance and 19-7 win was that it was merely a means of extending their campaign to the red-letter date which has long been in the diary; November 2. Of course, players, coaches and staff will be well aware of the magnitude of what they have just achieved, but they know that it will be their last achievement in this tournament if they allow themselves to linger on it.
England will take on South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final in Japan on Saturday morning
Eddie Jones believes his England squad are ‘relaxed’ ahead of their first final since 2007
Their opponents, South Africa, overcame Wales 19-16 in the second semi-final on Sunday
England got past New Zealand with a dominant performance after a quick Manu Tuilagi try
England are favourites for the final and they will be well aware of that too, even if they are reluctant to publicly embrace that status. The scenario now is more akin to 2003, when Sir Clive Woodward’s imperious team won the World Cup, than 2007 when they somehow reached the final again. In the first of those finals, they were expected to triumph. In the second, they were clear underdogs and were content to harness a spirit of defiance – as underdogs invariably do.
Jones knows all about how to cope with the build-up to the final, because he has been involved in two of them already; as Australia head coach in 2003 and as a consultant with South Africa in 2007. The man in charge of England has the know-how to guide his squad towards their destiny.
RUGBY WORLD CUP FINAL 2019 FACTFILE
England vs South Africa
Date: Saturday, November 2
Time: 9am GMT
Stadium: International Stadium Yokohama
He was asked on Monday about the ideal approach and he spoke at length about his outlook – and the mood in the ranks. ‘It’s always about doing less,’ said Jones. ‘We’re at the end of a seven-week tournament, so it’s about focusing on what’s going to be a significant part of the game.
‘It’s not about doing everything, it’s about doing certain things right. It’s about keeping the players fresh physically, keeping them fresh mentally, making sure they have enough to do off the field and so it’s just getting the balance right in preparation.
‘Coaches tend to think they’ve got to do more so it’s about making sure that the coaches’ discipline is right, we don’t over-coach the players and we allow them to find their own rhythms in the week. They’ll be ready to go as you don’t lack motivation for a World Cup Final.
Owen Farrell’s England will be favourites for the final, like they were in 2003 against Australia
Jones was involved in the 2003 and 2007 finals, for Australia and South Africa respectively
England fans will be expecting victory on Saturday, but they still have to beat the Springboks
‘We can be fairly relaxed this week. We’ve done a lot of hard work, we know what’s ahead of us, we know we can play to our strengths. We’ve played at Yokohama Stadium, it’s a beautiful pitch, the support of the crowd is fantastic. We’re relaxed and we’re ready to go. The big thing for us is holding back the players this week – making sure they don’t go before the siren rings.’
English optimism is well-founded, based on the latest evidence. On Saturday in Yokohama, they delivered surely the country’s greatest international performance, to utterly eclipse New Zealand and shatter their hopes of a World Cup ‘three-peat’.
The following day, the Springboks edged past dogged, gallant Wales in far less convincing fashion. They were true to age-old stereotypes in harnessing their vast physical clout, without any bells and whistles attached. They kicked, they drove, they smashed and bashed and eventually they just about prevailed.
Jones and England will have watched that second semi-final and come to encouraging conclusions. If last weekend’s games are a true guide, the Red Rose repertoire is far more extensive. They can opt for a route-one approach if required, but also go wide and cut loose. They have power and finesse too, whereas the Boks are a battering-ram team, without so many subtle layers.
England just did gentle ‘walk-throughs’ on Monday, to start honing their game-plan
Harder training will resume on Tuesday for the likes of Farrell and fly-half George Ford
England and their next rivals have swapped hotels, with Jones’ squad moving into central Tokyo, to the vibrant Shinjuku district, while South Africa have gone the other way; out to Disneyland, to the east of the Japanese capital. England just did gentle ‘walk-throughs’ on Monday, to start honing their game-plan and they will resume training in earnest on Tuesday.
Wednesday is when their most intense sessions occur, often involving match scenario simulations and a significant level of contact, although it may be diluted at this stage of the tournament. They will train to the west of Tokyo, close to the stadium where they played Argentina in the pool stage.
Jones names his team on Thursday morning and on Friday, the squad will finalise preparations at their training base, rather than at Yokohama Stadium itself. Having been there for the clash with the All Blacks, they are familiar with the pitch and the surroundings, so they have no need to venture there again before the final.
So when England next board their coach bound for Yokohama, it will be on that red-letter day; Saturday, November 2. It is the date which has been in their minds for the best part of four years. It is their destiny date. They are approaching it in good spirits; relaxed, confident and ready.
South Africa have swapped hotels, moving out to Disneyland, east of the Japanese capital
When England next board their coach bound for Yokohama, it will be for their date with destiny