Forty-eight hours on from sealing a place in the 2019 Rugby World Cup finals, England’s coach Eddie Jones sees the week ahead as the most important yet.
Pundits, journalists and fans around the world were falling over themselves to rain compliments on Jones’ team, who utterly outplayed the All Blacks, who were unbeaten at the World Cup since the 2007 quarter-finals.
Saracens Football Club’s scrum-half Ben Spencer, who has 20 minutes of test rugby to his name, is set for a shock place on England’s bench for the World Cup final, after Willi Heinz was ruled out following a damaged hamstring in Saturday’s semi-final victory over New Zealand.
Heinz, himself a surprise selection in the World Cup squad and who made his debut in August, replaced Ben Youngs just after an hour and was visibly hobbling by the end. England, who brought only two number nines to the tournament, announced on Sunday that Spencer would join the squad in Japan on Monday as an official injury replacement.
South Africa heads into the Rugby World Cup final against England next Saturday knowing they still have plenty to work on, but fully expecting another war of attrition rather than an open game, according to coach Rassie Erasmus. Jones is by no means complacent about what the Springboks are capable of and fully expects them to charge through the “front door”.
The Springboks advanced to their third final with a taut 19-16 victory over Wales in Yokohama on Sunday, which was ultimately decided by flyhalf Handre Pollard’s boot with a conversion and four penalties — the last coming with four minutes remaining.
Jones, who lost the 2003 final to England as the then-coach of Australia, declined to compare the performances and was fully focused on the one remaining game.