YOKOHAMA, Japan, Oct 26 – Eddie Jones insisted his England side’s focus would remain intact after they booked their place in next week’s World Cup final by dethroning champions and “gods of rugby” New Zealand in superb style.
England were physically and tactically superior in a 19-7 semi-final win in Yokohama on Saturday that saw them to just their eighth victory over the All Blacks in 42 Tests dating back to 1905.
Jones, in charge of his native Australia when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to England, became England coach following their embarrassing first-round exit on home soil at the last edition four years ago.
Right from the start of his Red Rose reign, Jones was adamant England could be crowned champions in Japan.
Asked if England risked being carried away by a rare win over the All Blacks, Jones told reporters: “We’ve got the right focus.
“We set out four years ago, right from our very first meeting at Pennyhill Park (England’s training base southwest of London) to be the best team in the world.
“We’re not the best team in the world. We’ve got an opportunity to play in a game when we can prove we are and that’s the only thing we’re concerned with.”
– ‘Play better next week’ –
But he underlined England’s achievement in inflicting the All Blacks’ first defeat in 19 World Cup matches following their shock 2007 quarter-final loss to France, by saying: “New Zealand are the gods of rugby.
“We had to take it to them and we wanted to show we could take it to them and put them on the back foot as much as we could.”
England did take the game by the scruff of the neck from the start, Manu Tuilagi crossing for a converted try with fewer than two minutes on the clock.
And recalled fly-half George Ford then landed four penalties after a knock to Owen Farrell, moved to inside centre, meant the England captain could not continue as goal-kicker.
Jones, who during the 2003 World Cup masterminded the Wallabies’ semi-final win over New Zealand, said: “We picked our finishing XV first, that’s always the most crucial area when you play New Zealand.
“They did a super job for us and closed the game out.”
England signalled their determination before kick-off by forming an inverted V to confront the All Blacks’ pre-match haka challenge.
“We didn’t just want to stand there and let them come at us,” said Farrell. “We wanted to keep a respectful distance but we didn’t want to let then come at us.”
New Zealand cut the lead to 13-7 when Ardie Savea crossed for a converted try in the 57th minute following England hooker Jamie George’s overthrown line-out.
But England, with the often fiery Farrell in charge, kept their composure.
“When they scored points today we were the calmest we’ve been under the posts,” Farrell insisted.
England will now face the winners of Sunday’s match between South Africa and Wales in the final, with Jones jokingly saying he was looking forward to them playing out a draw that meant they would be forced into draining extra-time.
But, on a more serious note, he said: “We know we can play better next week and we will have to play better next week.”