GEORGE FORDsays that England’s 2015 World Cup flop was discussed “at length” before their assault on global glory in Japan.
England, then coached by former Leeds Tykes chief Stuart Lancaster, became the first host nation in Rugby World Cup history to make a pool stage exit.
They failed to progress from a group that also included Wales and Australia, bowing out with indecent haste.
Four years on, though and an Eddie Jones-led England will contest next Saturday’s final against South Africa following a stunning victory over New Zealand that has installed them as clear title favourites.
“We discussed that (2015) in our pre-season,” England fly-half Ford said. “We discussed it at length.
“We got all that stuff out from 2015 and since then we’ve moved forward, we’ve cracked on, we haven’t looked back or spoken about it once.
“It is about being the best England team. It was important that we got it out of our system, but as soon as it was done and dusted we moved on.”
Ford, the younger brother of current Yorkshire Carnegie player-coach Joe, led from the front in England’s demolition of the All Blacks, kicking four penalties after skipper and regular marksman Owen Farrell suffered a dead leg.
But England have no intention of getting carried away by their status as World Cup finalists, knowing there is a huge job ahead of them.
“The feeling now is that we’ve given ourselves an opportunity – that is literally all it is,” he added.
“We’ve got one opportunity now to finish it off. We understand what is ahead of us and it is an opportunity for us.
“The boss (Jones) addressed the squad as usual. It was ‘well done, good win’, he said he was proud of us and let’s crack on to this week. And genuinely, I think the feeling across the players – and this is not faking it in any way – is we are over the moon with the win, but we want to finish this off. It’s a good opportunity.
“The things that make us have the belief we have is the way we prepare and train. The way we train is pretty unique.
“We get tested by the coaches pretty consistently from week to week, and there is a lot put in to trying to solve things.”
An early indication that a special performance was imminent came during the pre-match Haka when England’s squad formed a V formation to face down New Zealand’s arrowhead led by Kieran Read.
Forming the tips were Billy Vunipola and Joe Marler, the prop whose wandering acted as a distraction to the All Blacks, while scrum-half Aaron Smith later revealed that Owen Farrell winked at him throughout.
Ford said: “Look, first of all we wanted to respect it because I think it’s a brilliant part of the game.
“We also wanted to send a bit of a message ourselves. A bit of – ‘bring it on’. I suppose that’s what they do when they are doing the Haka.
“They are laying it down, so we thought ‘bring it on, we’re coming back for you a little bit’.”
Meanwhile coach Eddie Jones has taunted Warren Gatland after the Wales coach questioned whether England have played their World Cup final a game early by overwhelming New Zealand.
Gatland was speaking after his team had been beaten 19-16 by South Africa, who now face the 2003 champions on Saturday in a repeat of the 2007 showpiece.
Twenty four hours before England and the Springboks collide at International Stadium Yokohama, Wales will confront the All Blacks in the bronze final 24 hours earlier – Gatland’s last match at the helm.
“Well, guys, can you just send my best wishes to Warren to make sure he enjoys the third and fourth place play-off,” Jones said.
Jones and Gatland are long-standing sparring partners and the outgoing Wales boss on Saturday made a pointed remark about England’s crushing win against the world champions.
“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.”
Jones has delivered a major boost to hopes of winning a second World Cup by declaring Jonny May has recovered well from the dead leg sustained in the rout of New Zealand.
England were joined at their Tokyo base yesterday by Ben Spencer, the Saracens scrum-half who has been summoned as an injury replacement for hamstring-injury victim Willi Heinz.