5 talking points as England prepare to tackle New Zealand
England clash with New Zealand in Saturday’s World Cup semi-final at International Stadium Yokohama in their biggest game since the 2007 global final.
Here the PA news agency examines five talking points heading into the match.
Moment of truth
Eddie Jones made it clear from the instant he was appointed four years ago that he wanted to be judged on England’s performance at the World Cup. Now the defining moment of his reign has arrived, a match he insists he has been preparing for since the draw was made in Kyoto in May 2017. Judgement day awaits.
Shrouded in uncertainly, Jones’ future provides a fascinating subtext to the knockout phase. Defeat to Australia in the quarter-finals would have pushed him towards the exit door, but his Twickenham stewardship now looks far more secure, regardless of the outcome against New Zealand. And he is not without alternative options, having been linked to Fiji and Australia.
New Zealand chase three-peat
The All Blacks’ more recent World Cup record is remarkable having not lost a game since 2007. In the intervening years they have lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy twice and are favourites to claim a third successive global crown on November 2. If England are to repeat their achievement of 2003, they will have done it the hard way.
Although England were edged 16-15 by the All Blacks at Twickenham last autumn, their ranks are full of players who know what it takes to topple the world champions. Ten of the starting XV have tasted victory against them, as either part of the famous 2012 triumph or with the Lions who prevailed in the second Test in Wellington two years ago.
Ford as ringmaster
The biggest selection story of England’s World Cup has been the identity of their fly-half and it is George Ford who has been given the nod on this occasion, nudging Owen Farrell to inside centre. Ford was dropped against Australia in order to stiffen the defence knowing the problems bulldozing centre Samu Kerevi can cause, but it is felt that an extra pair of playmaker’s eyes and hands are what is required against New Zealand.