Eddie Jones challenged his England players to go out into the Rugby World Cup final with “no fear” after naming an unchanged starting line-up for just the second time in four years for Saturday’s showdown with South Africa.
The England coach has stuck by the side that defeated New Zealand so emphatically in the semi-finals, with the only change coming on the bench as new arrival Ben Spencer replaces the injured Willi Heinz.
It is the first time that he has decided against any changes to his starting line-up at this World Cup, with the last time that the Australian stuck with the same starting XV coming between the Six Nations games against Ireland and Wales in 2016.
But Jones believes that he is able to do so because England are not feeling the pressure of the occasion, and feels that the only sadness they will experience on Saturday is the fact that it will end their World Cup journey together.
“We’ve had four years to prepare for this game,” Jones said. “We’ve got good tactical clarity about how we want to play, we’re fit, we’re enjoying the tournament – the only sadness is that the tournament is going to end.
“We’re having a great time, we want it to continue, but it comes to an end so we’ve got one more opportunity to play well. So we want to play with no fear on Saturday, just get out there and play the game.
“We know South Africa aren’t going to give us the game, they are going to come at us hard. We’ve got meet their physicality but we are looking forward to that and being able to impose our game on them.”
The 59-year-old believes that the fact that South Africa and England have reached the showcase match of Japan 2019 proves they are the two best sides in the world, but also believes that deciding who comes out on top in that battle will not be decided until Saturday evening in Yokohama – and not in the days leading up to it.
“I think that generally speaking the World Cup final is between the two best teams in the world, you have to win your pool and you’ve got to win a quarter-final and a semi-final so you’ve got to be at the top of your game,” he said.
“That means both the teams mentally, physically and tactically are ready to go. I think it’s what happens on the day rather than what happens before the game.
“We know South Africa’s going to come hard. They’ve got a history of being the most physically intimidating team in the world, so we’ve got to take that away from them. The boys know what’s ahead of them, everyone knows what’s at stake but because we’ve had such a good preparation we know we can go out there and play without any fear.”
In deciding against making any changes to his starting line-up, Jones has stuck by the George Ford-Owen Farrell partnership that dazzled against the All Blacks, despite the power game of the Springboks and the threat of inside centre Damian de Allende.
But Jones feels that such is the level of analysis now completed on every team in today’s game, it would not make any difference on South Africa’s preparation over who he selected at 10 and 12.
“Every week we pick the team we think is right for the occasion,” said Jones. “We look at the conditions, the referee, the opposition, we look at the way we want to play and we feel that is the best balance for the team this week.
“The way the game is at the moment, the amount of games that international teams play, we know each other pretty well. They will know our players, we know their players. We have a pretty good idea of how they will play, they have a pretty good idea how we will play. It’s more about the fact you have got to be at your best on the day rather than familiarity now.”
Jones’s selection also confirmed that Kyle Sinckler has shaken off a sore calf to start, while Farrell and Jonny May are set to feature having recovered from dead legs.
“One of the great things about this squad, and it’s a great credit to the players, is how hard they work, how physically they are fit, and how they work hard on rehabbing their injuries. We now have 32 players in the squad and Willi is only one unavailable
“If you look at our record over the last five or six games we’ve had close 90 per cent of the squad available, so the players have worked hard, we’ve got great medical staff ,we’ve got great strength and conditioning staff so the players are in great nick.
“Kyle Sinckler is going to be absolutely buzzing at the weekend, he’ll be out there ready to go.”
England: Elliot Daly; Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Jonny May; George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler; Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes; Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Mark Wilson, Ben Spencer, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph.
South Africa: Willie le Roux; Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi; Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe; Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager; Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermuelen.
Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitschoff, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies