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'Send my best wishes to Warren and make sure he enjoys the third-place play-off'

Eddie Jones couldn’t resist firing a shot back at the Wales boss.

Updated Oct 28th 2019, 5:01 PM

WARREN GATLAND WAS a gracious loser last night in Yokohama after the Springboks had squeezed past his Wales team and into the World Cup final.

But the Kiwi coach, who will depart home to New Zealand to join the Chiefs after this campaign, couldn’t resist one little jab at his long-time sparring partner, England boss Eddie Jones.

england-v-new-zealand-2019-rugby-world-cup-semi-final-international-stadium-yokohama Eddie Jones and England are preparing for the World Cup final. Source: Ashley Western

Looking towards Saturday’s final, the Wales boss suggested that Jones’ England will struggle to back up their sublime performance against New Zealand in the semi-final.

“We have seen in previous World Cups that teams sometimes play their final in semi-finals and don’t always turn up for a final,” said Gatland, whose team face the Kiwis in Friday night’s bronze final.

“So it will be interesting to see how England are next week and it can be a good game.”

Asked about Gatland’s comment this afternoon at the England team hotel in Tokyo Bay, Jones couldn’t resist having a dig back at the Wales boss.

“Just send my best wishes to Warren and make sure he enjoys the third and fourth-place play-off,” said Jones succinctly.

The England boss has bigger fish to fry this week, with Rassie Erasmus’ Boks standing in the way of the World Cup trophy Jones has targeted since taking over at the end of 2015.

“The only thing we’re really worried about is how the Springboks turn up on Saturday,” said Jones. “They won a tough semi-final and when you’re in the final of the World Cup, you have done a lot of good things right.

“They are a massively aggressive forward pack and they played their stronger team in the second half as opposed to the first half. They are going to be a difficult side to beat but we will enjoy the preparations.

“We know a couple of areas where we think we can expose them and will make sure we are good in those areas.

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“Rassie is a cunning coach and has done a great job with the Springboks. We are prepared for the unexpected and they can play different ways.

“You saw Faf de Klerk doing 15 to 20 box kicks. Handre Pollard is an excellent kicker of the ball and he was smooth and had a nice touch on the ball.

“They can play differently but we also know they can come through the front door. Not many Springbok teams you play don’t come through the front door so we will be ready at the front door and have enough cover for the back door if that happens.”

england-v-new-zealand-2019-rugby-world-cup-semi-final-international-stadium-yokohama Jones during England's warm-up before facing the All Blacks. Source: Ashley Western

England welcomed Ben Spencer to Japan today, with the Saracens scrum-half replacing Willi Heinz in Jones’ 31-man squad.

Heinz suffered a hamstring injury after coming off the bench to replace Ben Youngs on Saturday against the All Blacks, meaning Spencer is now set to come straight into the England matchday 23 for the final against the Springboks.

“It’s tough for Willi,” said Jones. “He’s been a great contributor and very well-liked member of the squad and he was in tears in the dressing room. It’s tough for him.

“He has collected himself and knows he has another role to do for us and will fulfill it well this week.

“Ben has been in and around the squad for the last couple of years and knows the game and knows the players and is a fit guy and fits in quickly. We said to the guys outside the 31 that they need to be ready to go.

“It is a great opportunity ahead of him and he has to learn a few new things and Willi and Ben will help him with that. The task in hand is no different from any other player and he has to learn a bit more and get himself physically and mentally ready.”

- First published at 07.20

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo

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