Owen Farrell insists England enter the World Cup battle hardened by a strenuous series of warm-up Tests as he declares the best is yet to come.
Italy were thumped 37-0 in Newcastle on Friday to complete a successful summer of preparations which peaked with a record victory over Ireland at Twickenham. A narrow defeat to Wales in Cardiff was their only blemish.
They will touch down in Tokyo this morning as second favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy behind New Zealand and Farrell, the team’s captain, insists they must be ready for anything in the weeks ahead.
“These matches have been good for us. The Tests have been different, all of them,” Farrell said.
“Every single game has thrown different things at us and we’ve managed to deal with it and put in decent performances.
“There’s still a lot left in us and that’s a good place to be in. We’ll make sure we keep working on it.
“What has pleased me most about the four games is our ability to stick in the fight in different situations.
“That Wales game away was a tough game. We went behind but we stuck in it and we gave ourselves an opportunity at the end.
“There’s a plan in place to get us as ready as we possibly can be for this World Cup and it feels like we are in a good place. But you never know what could happen.
“You have got to be as prepared as you can for what’s in front of you, but at the same time you have got to be ready to deal with anything. We will make sure we’re calm enough to do that.”
Tokyo has been braced for the arrival of Typhoon Faxai, which has the potential to delay England’s arrival into the Japanese capital.
Australia, possible quarter-final opponents who are due to land the same day, have changed to a later departure in an attempt to avoid winds that could reach up to 180 kilometres per hour and that have forced the cancellation of dozens of flights in the region.
England’s plan is to spend a night in Tokyo before heading to the south western island of Kyushu, where they will complete a week-long pre-tournament training camp ahead of their opening match against Tonga on September 22.
Lock Joe Launchbury (back) and hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie (knee) have been added to their lengthy list of wounded after sustaining knocks at St James’ Park.
Centre Henry Slade and wing Jack Nowell will arrive in Japan without playing a single minute of the four warm-up Tests due to respective knee and ankle issues.
Jonathan Joseph, also a centre, is nursing a ‘leg muscle’ injury while Mako Vunipola is unlikely to be ready until the latter stages of the group phase when the pivotal games against Argentina and France are played.
England coach Eddie Jones has warned the typhoon sweeping across Asia could have a major disruption on the World Cup in Japan but says he has contingency plans in place to deal with it.
Typhoon Faxai moved northwest over the Pacific towards eastern Japan on Saturday, threatening to make landfall near Tokyo as early as last night, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
Tournament organisers have planned for the possibility of having to relocate teams from their bases or even to move matches to different venues. The stadiums for England’s first two games, against Tonga in Sapporo and the United States in Kobe, have roofs and Jones says the team will train indoors on artificial turf if necessary.
“It’s going to affect the World Cup, there’s no doubt about it,” Jones said.
“You’ve just got to ride with it, be adaptable and work out how you can cope with the situation.
“The issue is you can’t go outside but we’ve got ideas of what we do if a typhoon stopped us training outdoors. We’ll train on artificial turf indoors.”
After playing four warm-up matches on dry pitches, Jones is preparing for a marked change in conditions.
“South Africa played Japan (on Friday) and it was very hot and very humid,” he said.
“There was a lot of dropped ball, it was quite greasy, and that could increase the amount of kicking.”
England made hard work of what should have been a straight-forward win over the Azzurri on Friday night.
They led only 9-0 at half-time thanks to three penalty goals from captain Owen Farrell but Jones rung the changes and his team responded with four second-half tries from Joe Marchant, Ellis Genge, Ben Youngs and Anthony Watson.
“It was perfect for us,” Jones said. “Our first two games are against two countries where you can go into the game with a mindset that you’re going to win the game.
“You’ve got to apply yourself 100 per cent and sometimes it’s hard to do. We learned today what happens when you don’t apply yourself.
“In the first half we were scrappy. We were ahead 9-0 and they’re one lucky bounce from a try.
“We changed our whole approach in the second half and I was really pleased with how the players reacted so it was a great exercise for us.”
Jones say he has “a pretty good idea” of his best team but is resigned to being without Mako Vunipola until the end of the pool stages after the loose head prop suffered a setback with his hamstring injury.
“He’s as important as the other two loose heads,” Jones said. “We want him back in the mix but we’re prepared to wait and be patient with him.
“He’s obviously a senior guy, who’s good on the field but also great off the field, that’s why he’s so important for us.”
Joe Launchbury (back) and Luke Cowan-Dickie (knee) also sustained knocks during the game at St James’ Park but Jones is confident they will be fit for the start of the tournament.
“We purposely took them off early and were not going to take any risks,” he said. “We don’t feel at this stage they’re serious injuries.”