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'We didn't want to let them come at us' - England deliver after haka stand

Eddie Jones’ team were simply outstanding as they dethroned the All Blacks in Yokohama.

AS SOON AS the anthems were done, it felt a little bit different.

England’s players went to take up their positions to face the haka but this wasn’t the usual line of players standing and staring as the All Blacks performed their pre-match ritual.

Instead, Owen Farrell and his team formed a V and pointedly encroached into the New Zealand half.

the-haka Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Referee Nigel Owens attempted to send them backwards but England ignored him. Joe Marler, over on the far side of the pitch, wandered even closer to the Kiwis.

“We knew we had to be within a radius behind them and we wanted not to just stand there and let them come at us,” explained Farrell post-match in Yokohama.

“We wanted to keep a respectful distance and be respectful to that, but we didn’t just want to stand in a flat line and let them come at us.”

Having made their stand before kick-off, the English followed up by delivering a performance in which they simply never took a backwards step. It earned them a place in the World Cup final, and this 19-7 victory could have been even bigger given the English dominance.

The Kiwis were a clear second-best, scoring their only points of the game from a rare England error at lineout time. Eddie Jones’ team had chances to score more in a fixture they essentially dominated from start – Manu Tuilagi’s third-minute try sending them in front early – to finish.

England’s pack was ludicrously good, with the destroyer Maro Itoje wreaking havoc and running his team’s lineout, while 21-year-old Tom Curry and 23-year-old Sam Underhill bullied the Kiwis in contact throughout. Forwards like Kyle Sinckler can really play too.

The English breakdown work was violent and accurate, combining with set-piece solidity to allow the masterful George Ford and Owen Farrell to probe the Kiwis’ defence with their passing and kicking games, dragging the All Blacks to and fro with poise.

Tuilagi carried effectively but his defence was more important as he repeatedly made excellent reads to stifle the New Zealanders. The list of English qualities goes on, but this was certainly one of the finest World Cup knock-out performances of all time. 

sevu-reece-tackled-by-sam-underhill Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

England will go into next weekend’s final against either South Africa or Wales, who play in Yokohama tomorrow, as the favourites.

“It gives us another week, mate,” said Jones when asked where this performance ranks in English rugby history. 

“We have another week and we’re looking forward to it. We’re not historians, we don’t know but we know that we can play better next week. We’re going to have to play better next week, whoever we play against.

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“We’re looking forward to Wales and South Africa playing a 3-3 draw, so they have to play extra time, it’s still 3-3 and they have to play more extra time. That’s the prediction.

“New Zealand are rugby gods so we had to take it to them, we wanted to take it to them to show we could put them on the back foot as much as we could.

“Owen and the leaders on the field were exceptional today. They kept the team disciplined, stuck to the game plan, kept attacking where we thought New Zealand were weak and didn’t divert from there.”

Jones batted away every question that invited him to laud England’s performance, instead insisting that his team have simply earned another chance to prove their quality in next weekend’s final.

The Australian has always been very open about England’s primary goal being success at this World Cup and the journey is not yet complete.

eddie-jones Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I remember the meeting four years ago at Pennyhill Park, our first meeting together. We wanted to be the best team in the world and we’re not the best team in the world,” said Jones.

“We’ve got an opportunity to play in a game where we can prove we are. That’s all we’ve got to be concerned with and we’ll prepare well each day.”

Jones gave credit to his forwards coach Steve Borthwick and scrum specialist Neal Hatley for priming the English pack so well, while finishing by paying tribute to All Blacks boss Steve Hansen, who will step down after this World Cup.

“We’re going to catch up and have a drink,” said Jones. “There’s nothing that changes in that relationship. He’s a great coach, I first coached against him in 1997, he was with the Crusaders and I was coaching the Brumbies.

“We’ve had some wins, we’ve had some losses. He’s a great rugby man, he will go down as one of the greatest All Blacks coaches.

“The thing that’s impressed me about him is that he’s always looked to see what’s best for the game. He’s going to be missed from the game. I know he’s coming back here [to Japan] and coaching in Toyota, so their cars will run a bit faster. I’m sure he’ll get involved in helping World Rugby.”

- This article was updated at 2.07am on 27 October to correct ‘Jerome Garces’ to ‘Nigel Owens’ in the fourth paragraph. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from International Stadium Yokohama

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