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'They can inspire a whole country' - Jones asks England to play without fear

The Australian head coach says his team have pride in their style of play.

THERE DON’T APPEAR to be too many nerves around England camp this week, with Joe Marler and Dan Cole finishing their press conference by hugging and planting a kiss on each other’s cheeks.

The two replacement props had just spent the previous 10 minutes enjoying themselves in front of the gathered journalists.

Anthony Watson and Manu Tuilagi stressed only their excitement, while head coach Eddie Jones and captain Owen Farrell presented a steely determination two days out from the biggest game in the sport.

england-squad-announcement-keio-plaza-hotel Eddie Jones speaking at England's team hotel in Tokyo. Source: Adam Davy

Head coach Jones is vastly experienced and his message this week has been clear: England are not going to go into their shells for tomorrow’s World Cup final against South Africa.

“We will play with no fear,” said a smiling Jones yesterday. “How fantastic is it for a young bunch of guys we have? Every sporting person out there is looking at the game. It’s the biggest sporting event on at that time.

“Saturday night is the biggest sporting event in the world. And our players get to play in that arena. What an exciting opportunity for them to be themselves, to play with spirit, to play with pride and an English style of play.”

Jones and his team are the most likeable English squad in recent memory, having won many new supporters from outside England due to their balanced style of play, particularly in the stunning semi-final win over New Zealand.

For many would-be neutrals, the hope is that any negativity from the Springboks is punished by a more ambitious England side.

To Jones’ credit, his team has evolved in the past 18 months or so, with new players usurping previous stalwarts and their attacking style developing under new attack coach Scott Wisemantel.

“One of the best conversations I ever had was about two years ago with Louis van Gaal,” said Jones when asked about England’s evolution. “He explained it really simply – he said every coach has an idea of the way they want to play the game, so I want to play the game one way, then you get your squad, the cultural context of your squad and then you work out what shape you can play.

“I always had an idea of how I wanted to play, but it depends on the players you have.

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“I wanted to develop a power style of rugby as England have tough, big players. It suited us to play a power style of rugby and we will be tested on Saturday as we are playing against the other most powerful team in the world.

england-squad-announcement-keio-plaza-hotel Eddie Jones wants his team to seize their opportunity. Source: Adam Davy

“The players are proud of the style they play and they know it’s their style. It’s not someone else’s style. They have evolved the style of play, they have evolved the tactics they play with and they own the game. So they are really proud of how they play.”

England’s squad is also more diverse than has been the case in the past, garnering more interest and affection.

There are the sons of Nigerian immigrants, of Cornish trawlermen, and a Samoan native in Manu Tuilagi. Kyle Sinckler grew up in a council housing estate in England, while there are several other stories that show this squad is not solely made up of players who came through the privileged route of elite schools.

“They can inspire a whole country now, they can inspire a sporting community,” said former Japan boss Jones.

“That’s the opportunity they’ve got and all the messages that we’ve seen back in England at the moment is that there’s a bit of a rugby fever going on, so now mums are telling kids ‘play rugby, be the next Kyle Sinckler, be the next Ellis Genge,’ and that’s the opportunity they’ve got.

“It changes how the country feels about itself for a period of time – it might change at the next general election – but for a period of time it changes how people feel about themselves and that’s the greatest joy.

“If I look back at Japan and look at the growth of rugby in Japan from what we did in 2015 [beating the Springboks], it’s spectacular. People in Japan love rugby now, they didn’t before, now they love the game.

“You’ve got this opportunity to change people’s lives through the ability to play rugby and it’s a gift, isn’t it?”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Tokyo

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