Tokyo, Japan | AFP | England coach Eddie Jones has urged his side to “play with no fear” against South Africa in the World Cup final, despite the Springboks’ history of physical intimidation.
The Springboks have played to their physically imposing forward strength during the 2019 World Cup — most notably in grinding out a 19-16 win over Wales that took them to Saturday’s showpiece match in Yokohama.
While also boasting plenty of power up front, England have played more expansively in knockout wins over Australia (44-16) and reigning champions New Zealand (19-7).
“We’ve had four years to prepare for this game,” Jones told reporters after naming an unchanged starting XV for the final.
“We’ve got good tactical clarity about how we want to play, we’re fit. So we want to play with no fear on Saturday, just get out there and play the game.”
Jones, Australia’s coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final and a consultant to the Springboks side that beat England in a Paris final four years later, added: “We know South Africa aren’t going to give us the game, they are going to come hard.
“They’ve got a history of being the most physically intimidating team in the world, so we’ve got to take that away from them.
England will kick off as the world’s number-one ranked side, with South Africa second but Jones insisted that was of “no concern” when the final gets underway.
– ‘Noise’ –
England captain and goal-kicker Owen Farrell, retained at inside centre in a dual playmaker set-up with fly-half George Ford, added: “We’ve done all the preparation in terms of on-field stuff. We’ll make sure the mental side of it builds up from now.”
As for coping with rising public expectations, Jones insisted: “There has been no higher expectation than within the team.
“We started out the first day wanting to be the best team in the world. So that’s where we wanted to go.
“Three weeks ago, we were hopeless, I was going to get the sack, Owen couldn’t kick a goal. So we don’t tend to listen to that noise.”
Jones reckoned a pivotal moment in England’s progress had been a 31-21 Six Nations win away to France that saw them to a 2016 Grand Slam.
“In any team’s development you have wins that are important and losses that are important,” he said.
“We started the game probably within ourselves and it took us until the second half to find ourselves.
“It’s a great lesson for this week that we have to go out there and make the game, take the game to South Africa.
“Our whole mindset this week about is taking the game to South Africa, playing with no fear. Where can we take our game to? What level can we take our game to?”