Eddie Jones looks for ‘Fergie time’ in World Cup semi-final

England's head coach Eddie Jones.
England's head coach Eddie Jones.
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Eddie Jones has challenged England to alter the course of rugby history by emulating the success of Sir Alex Ferguson in dethroning Liverpool.

New Zealand await in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final at International Stadium Yokohama as Jones’s four-year reign reaches its defining moment.

The All Blacks are in pursuit of an unprecedented third successive global crown and are the sport’s dominant force, but Jones uses a football analogy to explain the task confronting his players.

Ferguson famously remarked when becoming Manchester United manager in 1986 that his first job was to “knock Liverpool off their perch” in reference to their rule over English football.

Jones senses the time is right for New Zealand to be relieved of their crown.

“That’s what we’ve got the opportunity to do. When you’ve been involved in rugby the country you want to knock off is New Zealand because they’ve been the best,” Jones said.

“And the reason you’re involved in this game is you want to be the best. You’ve got the opportunity to change rugby history on Saturday and the whole team is excited about it.

“It’s going to be a great contest. Two heavyweights, one dressed in black, one dressed in white. You couldn’t think of a better scenario.”

England have not progressed beyond the quarter-final stage since 2007 and four years ago they failed to reach the knockout phase at all.

Stacked against that record are New Zealand’s triumphs in 2011 and 2015 that expose the underdogs’ lack of big-game experience on the greatest stage.

Jones insists, however, that England’s status as a prized scalp means they will be well prepared for such a high stakes occasion.

“Our players have played a lot of big games. Every game they play at the Six Nations the other country is coming for them,” said the head coach, who has picked George Ford at fly-half in the only change to the side that defeated Australia last weekend.

“We play Scotland at Murrayfield, they come for us. Ireland at Lansdowne Road, they come for us. Thirteen of our players were involved in the Lions tour. They have big-match experience. And this is a big game, let’s not doubt that.

“Players have had big-match experience, they’ve failed, they’ve had success and that’s one of the things I like about this team.

“If you look over the four years, we’ve had success, but we’ve had failures. We’ve had to learn from those wins and from those losses, and Saturday it’s going to be tested again. When we played New Zealand in November we learned that you’ve got to be alive in every moment of the game.

“There were times when we weren’t and we allowed them back in the game. That’s been the greatest lesson of all.

“The All Blacks traditionally score most of their points in the second 20 minutes of the first half and the second 20 of the second half. The most crucial stage of this game is going to be the second 20 minutes of the second half, where the game’s going to be won or lost. We’ve been particularly diligent in selecting our team to take that into consideration. In fact we selected our finishing team first.”

Jones has called on England fans to play their part.

“Our supporters on Saturday have got a big job for us. They are probably going to be outweighed in that stadium, so we need them to be at their most vocal.”

England team to face New Zealand (Saturday, 9am BST: E Daly (Saracens); A Watson (Bath Rugby), M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), O Farrell (Saracens, capt), J May (Leicester Tigers); G Ford (Leicester Tigers), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); M Vunipola (Saracens), J George (Saracens), K Sinckler (Harlequins), M Itoje (Saracens), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), T Curry (Sale Sharks), S Underhill (Bath Rugby), B Vunipola (Saracens).

Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), J Marler (Harlequins), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), G Kruis (Saracens), M Wilson (Sale Sharks), W Heinz (Gloucester Rugby), H Slade (Exeter Chiefs), J Joseph (Bath Rugby).