ENG­LAND’S PRIDE & JOY

Jones says rugby fever is driv­ing his team on: ‘We can in­spire the na­tion and change how the coun­try feels about it­self ’

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Mick Cleary RUGBY COR­RE­SPON­DENT in Tokyo

The bat­tle cry rang out loud and clear from Eng­land’s base as Ed­die Jones urged his team to play with “no fear” and “in­spire a whole coun­try” in to­mor­row’s World Cup fi­nal with South Africa.

Far from nerves be­gin­ning to fray as kick-off looms, there was an un­mis­tak­able air of con­fi­dence in the Eng­land camp, re­flected in the fact that for only the second time in his four years in charge Jones has named the same start­ing XV, with Ge­orge Ford re­tained at fly-half.

There is cer­tainty of se­lec­tion and clarity of thought as Jones em­braces the mo­ment for which he has been plan­ning since 2015.

“We will play with no fear,” said Jones, em­pha­sis­ing the buzz phrase his play­ers will carry with them out on to the field at the Yoko­hama Sta­dium, in what the Eng­land head coach be­lieves will be a sem­i­nal mo­ment in their lives.

“The Rugby World Cup is the big­gest sport­ing event in the world at its time on Satur­day. How fan­tas­tic is that for our play­ers to have an op­por­tu­nity to be them­selves, to play with spirit, to play with pride and with an English style of play? They can in­spire the whole com­mu­nity. There is a bit of rugby fever go­ing on back home and mums are telling kids that they could be the next Kyle Sinck­ler or Ellis Genge.

“It changes how the coun­try feels about it­self for a pe­riod of time and that is the great­est joy. When I look back at Ja­pan and what we did at the 2015 World

Cup, and saw the growth of rugby here, it’s spec­tac­u­lar. Peo­ple in Ja­pan love rugby now and they didn’t be­fore. You have got this op­por­tu­nity to change peo­ple’s lives through the abil­ity to play rugby and that’s a gift to you, isn’t it.”

Jones is un­der no il­lu­sions as to the size of the task, based on his own ex­pe­ri­ences as part of the Spring­bok man­age­ment who helped win the World Cup in 2007. There have been sev­eral feisty, bruis­ing en­coun­ters be­tween the teams down the years, which Jones at­tributes to the Boer War.

“I know how much South Africa en­joy the ri­valry with Eng­land, I know the depth of their feel­ings and some of it is his­tor­i­cal,” said Jones who was so well re­garded by the play­ers in 2007 that, even though he was not part of the of­fi­cial man­age­ment group, wing Bryan Ha­bana posted his own cer­e­mo­nial Spring­bok blazer to Jones, who had moved to Sara­cens, as a ges­ture of ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

“It’s al­ways the so­cial con­text of the game which makes it in­ter­est­ing. That’s the great thing about in­ter­na­tional rugby. We know what to ex­pect from South Africa. They are go­ing to come hard at us. We have to meet that phys­i­cal­ity and im­pose our game on them.”

Eng­land have ab­so­lute clarity about their game, no mat­ter the op­po­si­tion. Even though they were able to play fast and wide against New Zealand, when the sit­u­a­tion pre­sented it­self they were also direct. They know, too, that any game against the Spring­boks in­vari­ably de­scends into an arm-wres­tle. Jones, though, has de­lib­er­ately beefed up the team over the years, ex­hort­ing them to re­turn to their roots. Far from there be­ing any ques­tion marks over Eng­land’s abil­ity to deal with the Spring­boks’ phys­i­cal­ity, Jones be­lieves his

team have their mea­sure It was an en­counter with for­mer Hol­land and Manch­ester United man­ager, Louis van Gaal, that en­light­ened Jones.

“I al­ways had an idea of how I wanted to play, but talk­ing with Louis it be­came clear that it al­ways de­pends on the play­ers you have,” Jones said. “I wanted to de­velop a power style of rugby as Eng­land have big, tough play­ers. It suits us to play a power style of rugby and we will be tested on Satur­day as we are play­ing against the other most pow­er­ful team in the world.

“We don’t talk enough about an English style, an English iden­tity. The play­ers are proud of the style they play and they know it’s their style. It’s not some­one else’s style. They have evolved the style of play, they have evolved the tac­tics they play with and they own their game.”

Jones paid trib­ute to the ef­forts of his now 32-man squad, with Sara­cens scrum-half Ben Spencer slot­ting straight in on the bench for the in­jured Willi Heinz, only five days af­ter ar­riv­ing in Ja­pan.

There is a stee­li­ness about the squad Jones ad­mires. The play­ers have even ini­ti­ated a cus­tom on a Fri­day af­ter Owen Far­rell’s cap­tain’s talk whereby Eng­land shirts num­bered 24-31 are handed to the non-play­ing mem­bers of the squad.

“They’re the he­roes of the team,” said Jones, who has no plans for any­one from out­side to come in and present the match-day squad with shirts. “We’re about our­selves. We don’t need ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion. The group is like the big­gest fam­ily in the world and work­ing out the dynamics of ev­ery­one, how to get ev­ery­one bet­ter, is al­ways there.

“When a World Cup goes well for you, you don’t want it to end. The break-up will be sad. My job was al­ways to make my­self re­dun­dant. I am al­most re­dun­dant now. The team is run­ning the team, which is how it should be.

“Like ev­ery­thing, there is al­ways a fi­nal chap­ter and the fi­nal chap­ter is Satur­day.”

Fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity: Ed­die Jones says play­ers can feed off rugby fever back home

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