November 17, 2019
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    Rugby World Cup final: England cannot be complacent after New Zealand victory

    October 31, 2019

    World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson says England must not be trapped into thinking a repeat of their semi-final performance will be enough to make them world champions on Saturday.England, looking to lift the trophy for the first time since Johnson did so in 2003, face South Africa in the final.Eddie Jones' team swept aside defending champions New Zealand in the semi, but Johnson hopes that victory has not made England complacent."Same again is the worst thing you can do," he said on BBC Radio 5 Live's Rugby Union Weekly podcast."I've been lecturing people in the street all week. They say, 'oh we just need to do the same thing on Saturday'."The massive trap for this team is thinking, 'turn up and do that again, we'll be all right'."It was the best performance of an England team ever in the semi-final. It will count for a lot less if they don't win on Saturday."

    Johnson joined fellow members of the 2003 squad Jason Leonard, Mike Tindall, Matt Dawson and Paul Grayson for a special edition of the Rugby Union Weekly podcast, providing an insight into what the current England team will be experiencing before the final.Before the 2003 final in Sydney, the walls of the England team room were plastered with letters from celebrities and the squad were visited by 1966 football World Cup winner George Cohen.With all this going on, it would have been easy to get carried away, but Johnson says England must simply focus on the rugby."The key thing is that you are in the right frame of mind to play the game," he added."In 2003, the final week was almost the easiest week of the whole tournament."We weren't thinking about our lives being changed, we were thinking about beating Australia."You know it's a World Cup final, you know what's at stake but you're still playing a game of rugby. Don't play the occasions, play the game."'Like a psychologist on a bit of A4'
    Though England must not let the enormity of a World Cup final get on top of them, former England centre Tindall says "emotional drivers" can still be a powerful tool.For ex-England scrum-half Matt Dawson, one source of emotional fuel back in 2003 came in the form of a letter from fly-half Paul Grayson.
    BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Paul Grayson (left) was part of the World Cup winning squad in 2003, alongside Jason Leonard (right)
    As well as playing for England, the pair also combined at Northampton for 11 years and, when the World Cup final came around, Grayson decided "there were things he wanted to say" to Dawson."I wrote him a little letter," Grayson explained. "You're only going to do that once and you might get it spectacularly wrong."It took a while to write. I contemplated it. The message was: you're in the right place, this is where you deserve to be."I wrote it, folded it up, stood outside his room and wondered whether to knock. I put it under the door and ran off."He didn't speak to me for 24 hours in the build-up to the game, he didn't make eye contact. I was assuming it had gone straight in the bin.""I couldn't talk to him because I was crying like a baby," responded Dawson.
    "The emotions behind it were just beyond anything. I was reading it and crying my eyes out."He was talking about specifics in our lives; good times, bad times, adversity."It's just like you would expect a psychologist to talk you through a game nowadays just on this one bit of A4."'Everyone was happy for each other'England have perhaps been keeping a tight grip on their emotions at this World Cup so far, with understated celebrations following their dominant semi-final display against New Zealand.But if they do find that perfect balance of emotion and precision on Saturday, the reaction at full-time will no doubt be very different.Former prop Leonard recalls how the team responded in 2003, explaining that no-one was thinking of themselves because they were so "tight as a group"."My abiding memory is not just the win, it was after the final where everyone was happy for each other," he said."Never did I once sit in that changing rooms and think, 'I won the World Cup'. I was chuffed for my team-mates and they were doing the same for me."Advice from those who have been thereIn the podcast, the five members of the 2003 squad were asked what advice they would give to the current England team before Saturday's game.
    Here is what they said:Martin Johnson: Just go and do what you do. Don't change because it's a final. You're good rugby players, so trust yourselves to make the call as you see it in the context of the game.Jason Leonard: This is the reason you want to play rugby. You run out on the pitch and you've got the crowd - but it doesn't matter. You do the next job, you do that well. Then you go on to the next one and do that well.
    Mike Tindall: Don't let nerves get in the way of this. Go out there and make sure this is the game you enjoy the most out of all the games you've played. Look at your team-mates and know that they've got your back and you've got theirs.Matt Dawson: Have your eyes wide open to every single moment of that day. I wish I had a better memory of it because we were all so in it. It's a moment to cherish and one that they've trained for forever.Paul Grayson: There are a lot worse seats to be sitting in in the world so enjoy the ride. It's one of the great days of your life. To be in the right kit in the right stadium is a treat, so enjoy it all.
    England team unchanged for South Africa match

    By Tom Fordyce

    Chief sports writer in Japan

    2 hours agoFrom the sectionRugby Union 436
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    Rugby World Cup final: England will play without fear - Eddie Jones
    Rugby World Cup final: England v South Africa
    Venue: Yokohama International Stadium Date: Saturday, 2 November Kick-off: 09:00 GMT
    Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.
    England head coach Eddie Jones says his team are ready to produce their finest hour after naming an unchanged team for Saturday's World Cup final against South Africa.

    Captain Owen Farrell, leading try-scorer Jonny May and prop Kyle Sinckler have all been passed fit after carrying knocks from the semi-final win over the All Blacks.

    Farrell stays at inside-centre with George Ford once again picked at fly-half, while scrum-half Ben Spencer is on the bench after flying out last weekend as emergency cover following an injury to Willi Heinz.

    Jones said: "We know South Africa are going to come at us, and we're going to come at them even harder.

    "I've got no doubt that they'll play better, but we'll play better - we will play with no fear.

    "We're confident in the game we have and we're confident in the way we've prepared.

    "We're ready to go. Hang on to your seats, because it's the last dip of the rollercoaster."

    England produced what many critics described as the greatest performance in their history to see off three-time world champions New Zealand 19-7 last Saturday.

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    Rugby Union Weekly at the World Cup
    The form shown by the 10-12 combination of Ford and Farrell and the outstanding displays of Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Tom Curry and Sam Underhill have persuaded Jones - in his 50th game in charge of the side - to stick with the same XV for the first time all tournament, despite the direct, muscular threat posed by the Springboks.

    Jones currently has the highest winning percentage of any coach to take charge of England, and a second World Cup triumph, 16 years after Sir Clive Woodward's team took the first, would be the ultimate valediction for his four sometimes controversial years in charge.

    He said: "That was always our aim, to be here on 2 November in the Yokohama Stadium.

    "So we've achieved one goal, but we know what's at stake in the final, and we're well prepared.

    "South Africa are a different proposition - they're much more physical, they come through you at the front door, whereas New Zealand it's the front door and back door.

    "We have to make adjustments, but we're ready for the brutality of the game.

    "Our players have had the will to prepare. They've pushed themselves through some tough physical tasks.

    "They've worked hard to get the right tactical game and they've worked hard to build the bonds between them."

    Despite the youth of 21-year-old Curry and 23-year-old Underhill in the back row, this is an experienced England side, with a total of 731 caps in the starting XV.

    Sam Underhill and Tom Curry
    Back-row pair Sam Underhill (14) and Tom Curry (18) have just 32 caps between them
    And on Thursday those players were in relaxed mood despite the biggest game of their lives being just 48 hours away.

    Jones invited his entire 31-man squad and the English media together for morning coffee before the players were given time with their families and parents to go out around Shinjuku for lunch.

    On Friday they will go through one last light training run at Yokohama Stadium before returning to their hotel in central Tokyo and a team meeting led by skipper Farrell.

    It will be Jones' own third World Cup final after his Wallabies side were beaten by England in 2003 and the Springbok team he was helping to advise saw off England in Paris four years later.

    He said: "I'll be looking back at the lessons of 2003 and 2007, and even 2011.

    "You can never take anything for granted. You have to go out there and take the game.

    "You might be favourites, but you have to go out there and win the game, and that's our approach on Saturday.

    "I'm anxious, nervous, excited. It's always a blend of the two emotions. I'm sure South Africa are sitting in their hotel thinking the same way."

    England team to play South Africa: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola

    Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Mark Wilson, Ben Spencer, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph

    George Ford has moved out of Owen Farrell's shadow' - Paul Grayson
    By Becky Grey

    BBC Sport in Tokyo

    From the sectionRugby Union 346
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    George Ford
    Taking over the kicking duties in the wake of an injury to Owen Farrell, Ford scored 12 of England's 19 points in their semi-final win over New Zealand
    Rugby World Cup final: England v South Africa
    Venue: Yokohama International Stadium Date: Saturday, 2 November Kick-off: 09:00 GMT
    Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.
    You start three World Cup games, playing well. You're dropped. You're out of the team, then you get recalled. You play better than ever before.

    England head coach Eddie Jones has ripped up the script when it comes to George Ford this World Cup - and it has turned out to be a masterstroke.

    The fly-half was named man of the match as he combined with captain Owen Farrell at inside centre to help England to victory in their final pool game against Argentina.

    Two weeks later, in England's first World Cup knockout match for eight years, Ford was on the bench as Farrell took his place at fly-half.

    Ford is only 26. A lot of people at that age would struggle with such uncertainty in their role, but his performance after being reinstated to the starting XV for the semi-final against New Zealand was testament to his mental strength.

    Surely that will be enough to get him a starting sport for Saturday's final against South Africa? If it is, former England fly-half and BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Paul Grayson believes Ford can reach even greater heights.

    "There is no doubt George Ford will have an influence on the World Cup final," Grayson said.

    "South Africa will come with an almost hysterical physicality. Confrontation is not the way to overcome them, so they will need the guile, vision and class of Ford and Farrell's partnership at some point.

    "It could be the key to England winning the final."

     

    Danny Care says George Ford has been one of England's best players at the Rugby World Cup.
    The long and winding road to World Cup glory
    George Ford
    Ford's only start at the 2015 Rugby World Cup was in the dead-rubber victory over Uruguay in the pool stages
    The World Cup quarter-final against Australia was not the first time Jones has changed Ford's role. Over the past year, the Leicester playmaker has started at 10 for England eight times and come off the bench on nine occasions.

    During this year's Six Nations, Jones preferred Farrell at 10 with Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi in the midfield, but looked to have switched to a combination of Ford, Farrell and Tuilagi for the World Cup.

    Ford has been on this journey with another coach too. He was a regular starter before the 2015 World Cup, but was dropped by former England coach Stuart Lancaster for pool games against Wales and Australia.

    More recently, Ford started at fly-half in England's first two Tests against South Africa in June 2018, before being replaced by Danny Cipriani for the final match after the side were beaten twice.

    Undeterred, Ford has always strived to be better - he spent the rest period that followed last season coming up with a detailed plan to improve - and Grayson says he has come back stronger.

    "He's 26 but he's been around men's rugby since making his debut for Leicester at 16 years old," Grayson added.

    "When I first saw him play, he played with the freedom you would expect of someone that age, unencumbered by expectation or nerves.

    "That went away. That bright, shining light disappeared for a couple of years with some setbacks. I see that back now with the way that he's playing.

    "Now he understands the game. I see the same instinctive, comfortable play that the unfettered mind of a breakthrough 17-year-old superstar has.

    "That's a hard thing to get back when you've lost it."

    'George has moved out of Owen's shadow'
    George Ford and Owen Farrell
    Ford (left) and Owen Farrell have played together 52 times for England since first appearing together at Test level against Wales in March 2014
    Despite these setbacks, Ford and Farrell have formed a formidable partnership, playing together at 10 and 12 more than any other duo in top-tier internationals since the last Rugby World Cup.

    The Ford-Farrell axis was a big factor in England's 2016 Grand Slam victory and could yet be part of the national side winning a second World Cup.

    It would be a childhood dream come true for two friends who used to play rugby on the street together when they were neighbours as kids.

    The older of the two, Farrell has often stolen the limelight since those days - but Grayson believes the way Ford has coped with this and continued to contribute to England's success shows the faith he has in Jones' plan.

    "Coaches, like anybody else, don't always get it right, but they think as hard as anybody in the world about their jobs and about the right way to do things," he explained.

    "If a coach is true to his word on what you have to do to get into their team, or what role they want you to fulfil, it creates and maintains trust.

    "Ultimately, you want to start every game and play 80 minutes. As a goal-kicker you want to kick all the goals, guide your team and write the headlines.

    "The fact that George has taken it on the chin and accepted what happened in the quarter-final, then come back and played as well as he did in the semi-final tells me that he's incredibly mature and has a good relationship with Eddie Jones and the rest of his team-mates.

    "Now, when George and Owen are on the field together they're equally as important. George has moved out of Owen's shadow."

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