Eddie Jones and Steve Hansen have begun the countdown to Saturday’s monumental World Cup semi-final by killing each other with kindness.
The respective head coaches of England and New Zealand share a long-standing friendship and despite their expertise in pre-match mind games, there has been no attempt to dispense with niceties.
Instead, Jones has spoken of a respect for the mastermind of New Zealand’s 2015 World Cup triumph that he believes reflects the special values of the game.
“To start with, Steve’s a good bloke. That’s number one. Secondly, he’s got a great record,” Jones said.
“Just look at his record – Super Rugby with the Crusaders when we first started coaching against each other, followed by Wales followed by New Zealand. You don’t get a better record than that.
“Having respectful relationships is massively important in the game. You just have to see this tournament to know what it’s done because the things that have happened don’t happen in other sports.
“You’ve got the Canadian and Namibian blokes cleaning up the ground. Could you imagine Ronaldo or Messi doing that if Barcelona or Real Madrid gets a wash?
“It’s a different game. And that’s why I think relationships with players, with coaches, with fans is so important in our game.”
Hansen followed suit by praising Jones’ success in transforming England from a team that endured a chastening group exit at the last World Cup into genuine title contenders four years later.
The 60-year-old also notes his rival’s extraordinary drive by referencing the stroke he had in 2013 when Japan coach.
“Eddie’s done a fantastic job with England – they’ve got a harder edge about them now,” Hansen said.
“Eddie’s been part of a winning World Cup team with South Africa (2007), he’s had the disappointment of losing to England when he was coaching Australia (2003) but to get to the final is being successful anyway.
“He’s got the ability to understand what’s coming and he’ll share those with his management, coaching and playing groups.
“I respect his passion for the game – he loves the game. He’s got a work ethic second to none. He put himself in hospital, he’d worked that hard.
“He just loves the game and anyone who loves the game gets my support.”
Hansen, Jones, Wales’ Warren Gatland and former Australia head coach Michael Cheika have all been sparring partners at times over the years, but the All Blacks’ current boss insists any enmity is never genuine.
“It’s a game of footy, it’s not life or death. It’s like when you play against your brother or sister. It’s important, but it’s not life threatening,” Hansen said.
“It’s definitely closer than you guys perceive. You see some of the banter which is really only to help promote the game as being ‘cor, these guys don’t like each other’, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Rugby’s a special game and those of us who have been around for long enough understand that the game is bigger than everybody else.
“One of the greatest things about the game is the camaraderie that you get, not only in your own team but from being involved in a contest, sharing those moments and then moving on to the next one.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Know more about Sport360 Application
Wales are set to call a back into their World Cup squad as a replacement for hamstring injury victim Josh Navidi.
Cardiff Blues wing Owen Lane and Ospreys centre Scott Williams appear to head the list of candidates.
Back-row forward Navidi will miss the remainder of the tournament due to an injury that forced him off during a 20-19 quarter-final victory over France on Sunday.
In terms of a replacement for Navidi, Wales head coach Warren Gatland said: “No, it won’t be a back-rower. Probably someone in the back-line.
“We haven’t made that decision yet. We’ve just got to wait until we get that approval from World Rugby and then look to bring someone in.
“We’ve got six back-rowers, and we’ve got five fit at the moment. We have been a little bit short in numbers in the backs, so it probably will be a back who comes out as a replacement.
“It’s a grade two hamstring, so it’s at least a couple of weeks.
“It’s disappointing for him (Navidi). Hopefully, we will keep him out here. Obviously, he loses his accreditation, but since he’s gone so far in the tournament it will be nice for him to stay out for the next couple of weeks.
“He has been very influential and important for us in the last year. It’s disappointing to have a player ruled out, but in saying that, these games are so physical and to have only one player ruled out at this stage is a real positive for us.
“We’ve got a meeting tonight to decide who that potential replacement will be. There are a number of options.”
Gatland, meanwhile, said that centre Jonathan Davies – who missed the France game due to a knee injury – will “hopefully be up and running” for training on Tuesday.
Wales have arrived in Tokyo with the dust still settling on a last-eight encounter that France led until the 74th minute, before Ross Moriarty’s try and a Dan Biggar conversion edged them home and booked a semi-final against South Africa.
Provided by Press Association Sport
South Africa’s Tendai Mtawarira was lucky to escape a red card as the Springboks bludgeoned past hosts Japan 26-3 to book a World Cup semi-final with Wales.
‘The Beast’ Mtawarira upended Keita Inagaki midway through the first-half and was sin-binned for the crude tackle.
But referee Wayne Barnes reached immediately for a yellow card, opting not to refer the decision to Television Match Official (TMO) Rowan Kitt.
Inagaki landed on his head, leaving Japan frustrated with the level of punishment delivered to Mtawarira.
Makazole Mapimpi bagged a brace and Faf De Klerk also raced in, with Handre Pollard posting 11 points off the tee as South Africa squeezed the life out of the Brave Blossoms.
So just when Japan thought they could shock the rugby world for a third time in five weeks the Springboks rolled up their sleeves and flexed sufficient muscle to subdue Jamie Joseph’s men.
The Boks will now face Warren Gatland’s Wales in Yokohama on Sunday, in a bid to reach their first final since 2007.
The tournament burst into life with a breathless group stage encounter between South Africa and New Zealand, that the back-to-back world champion All Blacks won 23-13.
There remains every chance the World Cup could finish just as it began then, with both South Africa and New Zealand appearing dangerous in attack and resolute in defence.
Japan ultimately never recovered from a horror-show start.
The Boks exposed Tamura defending blindside from a scrum, and left the fly-half with nowhere to hide.
De Klerk fed Mapimpi and the powerful wing stormed over the top of Japan’s playmaker and over the line for a near-immediate opening score.
Japan recovered and dominated possession throughout the first-half, but could not find a way onto the scoreboard barring a penalty for Tamura.
Not even Mtawarira’s yellow card and a 10-minute one-man advantage could help Japan find a chink in the Springboks’ hugely-impressive defensive armour.
Flying wing Kenki Fukuoka so nearly scorched clear when skinning South Africa’s own pace ace Cheslin Kolbe, but the Boks recovered and snuffed out the danger.
Fukuoka is due to retire after the World Cup to seek a career in medicine, but the 27-year-old boasts the fastest feet in the Far East and would be a huge loss to the world game should he hang up his boots prematurely.
South Africa could only take a 5-3 lead into the interval but eventually ground down the hosts after that break.
Pollard slotted three from four penalty attempts as Rassie Erasmus’ side inched their way to victory.
And when De Klerk scampered over after that stunning driving maul, the match was over with a quarter-hour still on the clock.
Mapimpi still had time to blast clear and home for his second of the night, to close the game in style.
And so Japan’s adventure came to a gruelling close not befitting with the audacious attacking elan that so lit up this tournament.
But even in defeat they can hold heads high and look to a big future.
The Boks meanwhile will be very seriously eyeing a third world title.
Provided by Press Association Sport