England boss Eddie Jones hailed his players for taking it to “the God of rugby” after they recorded a stunning World Cup semi-final victory over New Zealand.
England’s dominant 19-7 triumph in Yokohama came against a nation seeking its third successive world title.
But the All Blacks crashed to a first World Cup defeat since the 2007 tournament, with England charging forward to face Six Nations rivals Wales or twice world champions South Africa in next Saturday’s final.
“New Zealand are the God of rugby, so we had to take it to them,” England head coach Jones said.
“We wanted to take it to them and show we could take the game to them, try to put them on the back foot as much as we could.
“They are a great team. They have won two World Cups in a row. They have got a great coach, a great captain, so we had to battle hard today.
“You always go in with an idea of how you want the game to be, but it never goes exactly like that.
“You have got to give so much credit to New Zealand, the way they kept fighting right until the end. We had to dig deep to win that game.”
Centre Manu Tuilagi’s try after just 97 seconds ensured a dream start for England, with George Ford guiding them home by kicking four penalties and captain Owen Farrell adding a conversion.
Jones added: “I thought Owen and the leaders on the field were absolutely exceptional. They kept the team discipline, kept to our game-plan, kept attacking where we thought New Zealand were weak and didn’t divert from that.
“I think they were able to get a bit of physical ascendancy (in the forwards). It’s always a battle.
“The thing about playing New Zealand is you might beat them on the scoreboard, but you never actually beat them. You see them at the end of the game, and they kept coming at us.”
Jones was reluctant to enter into the significance of England’s win, with the performance likely to be ranked among the greatest in their history.
And they will now be firm favourites to land a second world crown following a Jonny Wilkinson-inspired success against Australia 16 years ago.
“It gives us another week, mate. We are here for another week and we are looking forward to it,” Jones said.
“We are not historians. We know we can play better next week and we are going to have to play better, whoever we play.
“We are looking forward to Wales and South Africa playing a 3-3 draw so they have to play extra-time, and it’s still 3-3 and they have to play more extra-time!
“We’ve had two-and-a-half years to prepare for it (semi-final). We had been unconsciously preparing a game for this game.
“When you ingrain habits in your players they are easier to sustain, and we saw some great habits from our players.
On to next week 👊
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) October 26, 2019
“It’s another week or us. When we flew out on September 8, we wanted to be here at the end, and that’s where we are at.
“We set out four years ago, and we wanted to be the best team in the world. We are not the best team in the world, but we have got an opportunity to play in a game to prove we are, and that is all we are concerned with.
“We will just take each day as it comes. We have got another week to enjoy it, and that is what we will do.”