Eddie Jones said his England team were braced to deal with the unexpected when they play New Zealand in the World Cup semi-finals on Saturday but his players’ experience means they won’t be caught out. Thirteen of the England squad were on the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017 when the series was drawn and most of Saturday’s team played in last year’s dramatic 16-15 defeat to the All Blacks at Twickenham.
“Traditionally when you play against New Zealand the pace and intensity of the game gets you,” Jones told a packed news conference after naming his team on Thursday.
“But I think if you’ve experienced that before, you understand what you have got to prepare yourself for and most of our squad have been involved in those games so we’ve got great experience.” In the first test of the 2017 tour, the Lions were caught out by the All Blacks’ unexpected tactic of using their forwards to continually recycle the ball and make inroads with pick-and- go runs close to the ruck.
Jones, who found a way to knock New Zealand off their stride in the 2003 World Cup semi-finals when he coached Australia to a surprise win, said the All Blacks will no doubt have something up their sleeve again.
“They always show a propensity to change the order of the way they play and it will be up to our team to understand that clearly at the start of the game,” he said. “They always have some sort of surprise in first-phase attack.
“One thing about playing New Zealand is that you have to be alive all the time, they are always in the game, always looking for opportunities.” ‘TRUST IN EDDIE’ Jones said all the hard work and preparation for Saturday’s game had been done and his chief role this week has been to try to take the pressure of his players.
“You want to allow them to be free, allow them to have a clear head, allow them to play with energy and use their natural ability during the games,” he said.
One player who needs little help relaxing is Billy Vunipola, who will win his 50th cap in the match. The laid-back number eight said he couldn’t explain why but all the squad were confident about Saturday’s outcome.
“I haven’t ever beaten them but it almost helps you by firing you to try to change the course of history,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ve known a coach who has beaten New Zealand more times than Eddie. It might not happen consistently but he has the formula. Trust in Eddie and hopefully we can produce the performance.”