TOKYO (AP)After the spectacle of the Eddie Jones Show, the England team opted to tone things down in preparation for the ultimate test at a Rugby World Cup – a match against the All Blacks.
Jones, England’s outspoken Australian coach, put on quite the performance at the start of semifinals week, piling the pressure on the world champions in multiple ways, slating New Zealand journalists, and even saying there might have been a spy watching England training.
”I thought it was pretty funny,” Sam Underhill said Wednesday, almost chuckling.
Beating New Zealand, though, is no laughing matter for England, which has won just seven of its 41 games against rugby’s most celebrated team – and not since 2012 at Twickenham.
Ben Youngs was part of that squad in ’12 and he said the most important thing against the All Blacks was ”never clocking off.”
”For me, they are the most dangerous team in the world at punishing you,” said Youngs, who has lost his other seven test matches against New Zealand. ”Then they are physical. I don’t think they get enough credit for how physical they are.
”People talk about South Africa or England being physical, but New Zealand certainly bring that aspect as well … we know we have to be at our best. We are ready to do that.”
There was deference and respect from England’s players when talking about the New Zealanders – but they aren’t short of belief themselves.
And much of that comes from Jones and what he has built up not just across his four years in charge of England, but in the last four months in camp.
Jones certainly lightens the mood with his pre-match barbs at the opposition, but he helps to keep the pressure off his own players.
”It’s kind of there naturally, organically. I don’t think you can artificially create belief in a group,” Underhill said. ”Certainly his coaching style makes things pretty easy. He makes the big things small and the small things big. He makes things as straightforward as they can be.”
England has played New Zealand just once in the Jones era, and that was last year when the All Blacks rallied from 15-0 down to win 16-15. Underhill had a last-gasp try ruled out that afternoon at Twickenham.
”The best atmospheres I’ve ever played in are always when New Zealand comes to town at Twickenham and I suspect it’ll be no different,” at Yokohama, Youngs said. ”You add the fact that it’s a semifinal and we are anticipating an electric atmosphere on Saturday.”
England forwards coach Steve Borthwick said he expects the whole squad to be fit and available for the game, dispelling previous doubts over Jonny May and Jack Nowell (both hamstring).
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80