Oita, Japan, Oct 21 (AFP/APP): Eddie Jones believes England have the weapons to upset New Zealand in this weekend’s World Cup semi-final — as long as his players are not dazzled by the All Blacks’ stardust.
England are daring to dream in Japan after smashing Australia 40-16 in Oita, but Jones knows his side have a mountain to climb in the shape of treble-chasing New Zealand when the heavyweights clash in Yokohama.
“You always want to play the best and they are the best — no one can dispute that,” said the Australian.
“You want to be the best in the world, you have to beat the best,” added Jones.
“New Zealand are a great team with a great coach and a great captain, but like any team they are beatable.
“But I think what happens is you become part of the show,” he warned, pointing to the aura of invincibility built up by the All Blacks, who destroyed Ireland 46-14 in the quarter-finals and are unbeaten in a World Cup match since 2007.
“You watch — I thought that happened (with) Ireland. They really only got stuck in when the game was lost. Against any of the best teams, you have to go hard from the start. That’s going to be important for us.”
England were edged 16-15 by New Zealand at a rain-soaked Twickenham last November in their only meeting since Jones took charge following the 2015 World Cup debacle under his predecessor, Stuart Lancaster.
But after reaching the semi-finals for the first time in 12 years, England’s players are on the cusp of greatness, according to Jones.
– ‘Starting to believe’ –
“The reason I took this job is because I saw a team that could be great,” he said.
“That was the challenge and they are starting to believe it. We have a challenge this week because we are playing the greatest team that there has ever been in sport,” added the former Japan coach, who expects to have wing Jack Nowell available this week after a tweaked hamstring.
“We’ve got to look at it as almost a one-off game rather than try to link it to past performances.”
Jones, whose starting wingers Jonny May and Anthony Watson combined for three scores against Australia, insisted it was the hard yards on the training pitch, and not pure talent, that has England’s current crop standing on the shoulders of giants.
“You’ve got to have talent to get in the front door — but then you’ve got to have work ethic, you’ve got to be relentless,” he said. “Work’s hard, most people don’t want to do it.”
Jones, the Australia coach when England beat the Wallabies in the 2003 World Cup final, also doubled down on his remarks about having little sympathy for opposite number Michael Cheika, who stepped down after his team’s World Cup exit.
“If we had lost on Saturday, you guys would have been coming at me hard,” he shrugged.
“Let’s not get too emotional and silly about this — I’m not an Australian, I’m an England coach. Maybe you have to work that out.”