- Farrell, May and Sinckler all set to be fit for final
- Jones cites need to lift country amid Brexit strife
Eddie Jones has hit back at Warren Gatland after the Wales head coach had suggested England have peaked too early in their pursuit of theRugby World Cup, telling his old sparring partner to “enjoy the third-fourth place play-off”.
Jones also insisted that it was his players’ job to “make the country happy” amid ongoing Brexit strife back home and delivered a positive injury bulletin as England set aboutpreparing for the first World Cup final for 12 yearson Monday.
Twenty-four hours after Englanddemolished the All Blacksto install themselves as the world No 1-ranked side and favorites for the World Cup, Wales wereedged out by South Africaand will face New Zealand inthe bronze medal match, a day before the final, in what will be Gatland’s last match of his tenure.
After their semi-final defeat Gatland praised England’s performance but questioned whether Jones’s side would be able to repeat the same levels of intensity a week later against the Springboks. “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,” Gatland said. “So it will be interesting to see how England are next week and it could be a good game.”
The two coaches have often clashed over the last few years and when Gatland’s comment was put to Jones, he replied: “Well guys, can you just send my best wishes to Warren and make sure he enjoys the third- fourth place play-off. ”
Meanwhile, Ben Spencer arrived at England’s hotel on Monday, having beenflown in to replace Willi Heinz, who has been ruled out of Saturday’s final with a hamstring injury. Jones revealed Heinz was in tears in the dressing room after the match against the All Blacks but the head coach said Owen Farrell, Jonny May and Kyle Sinckler will all be fit to face the Springboks. “[Jonny May is] Pretty good. We had a walk through this morning and we had to tell Jonny to slow down a bit, ”added Jones. “He is probably in better condition that he was last week [when he had a hamstring injury] at this stage. Immeasurably better. Owen is a bit sore but he will be fine. We have got a few others carrying bumps and bruises because it was a tough old game. ”
Spencer has only made three appearances for England, all as a replacement, and has never tasted victory on the international stage but he is set to go straight into the matchday 23 for a World Cup debut on Saturday as back -up to Ben Youngs. “It’s tough for Willi,” said Jones, who confirmed the hamstrung scrum-half would remain with the squad and offer support to Spencer. “He’s been a great contributor, a very well-liked member of the squad and he was in tears in the dressing room. It’s tough for him but he’s now collected himself, he now knows he’s got another role to play for us and he’ll fulfil that role really well this week.
“Ben has been in and around the squad consistently for the last couple of years so he knows the game, he knows the players. He is a fit guy and just fits in quite readily. We always said to those guys outside the 31 that they need to be ready, and he is ready to go.
“It is just a great opportunity ahead of him. He has come into the squad and has got to learn a few new things. Willi will help him and Benny will help him with that. The task ahead of him is no different to any other player. He has just got to learn a little bit more in the early part of the week and get himself physically and mentally ready. ”
Meanwhile, amid reports offans paying over the oddsfor tickets to the final and a surge in demand for flights to Japan, Jones saluted his side’s supporters and acknowledged England were giving fans a welcome distraction amid political chaos back in the UK. “I think it’s great, you give the country something to cheer about and with Brexit at the moment they probably need something to cheer about,” said Jones. “It’s a job of the team to make the country happy, not as happy as they can be, because there is still a game to go. The crowds here generally at the World Cup have been fantastic and I thought our supporters on Saturday night were massively instrumental in getting us home. Their singing, their general support of the team were fantastic and we urge them to keep doing that. ”