EDDIE JONES has challenged his England players to inspire the nation by toppling South Africa in tomorrow’s World Cup final.
Jones believes that victory over the Springboks at a sold-out 69,000 International Stadium Yokohama has the ability to bring joy to the country and fire the imagination of future Red Rose stars.
We will play with no fear. Play with no fear. How fantastic is it for the young bunch of guys we have? Every sporting person out there is looking at the game.Eddie Jones
When England run out for their fourth World Cup final, a match they enter as favourites, they will have instructions from their head coach to be fearless in their final assault on the Webb Ellis Trophy.
“The players can inspire a whole country now, they can inspire a sporting community,” former Japan coach Jones said.
“That’s the opportunity they’ve got and all the messages we’ve seen back in England show that there’s a bit of a rugby fever going on. Now mums are telling kids ‘play rugby’, be the next Kyle Sinckler, be the next Ellis Genge, and that’s the opportunity they’ve got.
“It changes how the country feels about itself for a period of time – it might change at the next general election – but for a period of time it changes how people feel about themselves and that’s the greatest joy. If I look back at Japan and look at the growth of rugby in Japan from what we did in 2015, it’s spectacular.
“People in Japan love rugby now, they didn’t before. You’ve got this opportunity to change people’s lives through the ability to play rugby and that’s a gift.
“We will play with no fear. Play with no fear. How fantastic is it for the young bunch of guys we have? Every sporting person out there is looking at the game.
“It’s the biggest sporting event on at that time. Saturday night is the biggest sporting event in the world. And our players get to play in that arena.
“What an exciting opportunity for them to be themselves, to play with spirit, to play with pride play with an English style of play?”
England stormed into the final with a breathtaking 19-7 victory over champions New Zealand but against the bulldozing South Africans they face a test of their resolve as much as their wits.
Assistant coach John Mitchell billed the repeat of the 2007 final as a clash between the sport’s two most imposing sides and Jones insists the country should be proud of its rugby identity.
“I wanted to develop a power style as England have tough, big players,” said Jones, who was appointed as Stuart Lancaster successor in late 2015.
“It suited us to play a power style of rugby and we will be tested on Saturday as we are playing against the other most powerful team in the world.
“The players are proud of the style they play and they know it’s their style. It’s not someone else’s style. They have evolved the style of play they have evolved the tactics they play with and they own the game. So they are really proud of how they play.”
Jones insists there is little more to be said to his players between now and kick-off as he reflects poignantly on the end of Japan 2019.
“We’ll have a chat at the hotel before we leave, but all the work’s done,” Jones said.
“I said when I first took over the job – my job’s to become redundant. And I’m almost redundant now. The team’s running the team, which is how it should be.
“We’ve got a group of players that is like the biggest family in the world and the saddest thing is the family breaking up.
“I always find that if you’ve had a good World Cup, you don’t want it to end, you want to keep it going.
“But like everything there is a final chapter and the final chapter is on Saturday.”
England prop Mako Vunipola will enter the armed with scrummaging tips from his auntie Pauline, who supporting from her Sydney home but only having given advice to the feared loosehead.
“I get a few messages from her every now and again,” the 28-year-old of Tongan origin said.
“Most of them are encouraging – Bible verses to keep me on my toes and keep my feet on the ground.
“But I’m sure that she will also probably have a few words to say just before we go to the game. She will probably message me to say what to look out for in the scrum.
“She didn’t play but she had six brothers who played so that’s enough. I’m very lucky that my aunties support me and care enough that they watch so much rugby and then have the time to get in touch.”
Teams for tomorrow’s Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama – England: E Daly; A Watson, M Tuilagi, O Farrell (captain), J May; G Ford, B Youngs; M Vunipola, J George, K Sinckler, M Itoje, C Lawes, T Curry, S Underhill, B Vunipola. Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie, J Marler, D Cole, G Kruis, M Wilson, B Spencer, H Slade, J Joseph.
South Africa: W Le Roux; C Kolbe, L Am, D De Allende, M Mapimpi; H Pollard, F De Klerk; T Mtawarira, M Mbonambi, F Malherbe, E Etzebeth, L De Jager, S Kolisi (captain), PS Du Toit, D Vermuelen. Replacements: M Marx, S Kitshoff, V Koch, RG Snyman, F Mostert, F Louw, H Jantjies, F Steyn.
Referee: Jerome Garces (France).