RWC 2019: The head-to-head player ratings ahead of New Zealand v England semi-final showdown

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Number one will face number two in the world when the All Blacks take on England in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals in Yokohama on Saturday.

Here we rate both sets of teams – on current form – ahead of their last four clash.

ENGLAND

Elliot Daly: Produced his best display at full-back against Argentina but has been largely quiet in other games. Joins the line well but there is not enough of his crafty attacking play. May well prefer to be on the wing or in the centre than at full back. 6.5/10

Anthony Watson: Didn’t see enough possession against the Pumas, but his footwork and security under the high ball was sublime versus the Wallabies. Looks bright in space. 7.5

Henry Slade: One of the leading lights during the Six Nations, the Exeter man was notably rusty against Australia. Produced one sublime moment for Jonny May’s try but was a mixed display otherwise. 7

Manu Tuilagi: Looks reborn on the big stage. Performed well against Tonga and Australia. His powerful carrying and iron-like defending will be key against the world champions. 8

Jonny May: His elusive footwork would hurt any team and has been a sterling presence throughout the competition so far with three tries. Impresses defensively too. 8

Owen Farrell: Had one off-day from the tee against Argentina with four straight misses. But the England captain is an inspirational presence, offering plenty on both sides of the ball. A tremendous leader. 9

Ben Youngs: Struggled with the tempo in some of the games but he’s gradually improving as each match progresses. One of the team’s senior figures and a player the Red Rose cannot afford to lose. 7

Mako Vunipola: Made a staggering 18 tackles in 69 minutes against the Wallabies, a serious contribution for a man who had not started a match since May. Will be crucial against New Zealand. 8

Jamie George: Industrious in the loose, the 29-year-old contributes well to England’s continuity. Can raise his game when the temperature is at its highest. His throwing is also on point. 8

Kyle Sinckler: The kind of player it must be a nightmare to play against when down to 14 men. The Tooting native may have a mistake in his armoury now and again but knows how to win key scrums and turnovers. Best tighthead in the world? 9

Maro Itoje: Imposes himself on opponents and looks hungry for work at all times. A disruptive line-out presence, Itoje needs to be at his immaculate best against Retallick. 8

George Kruis: It is easy to see why Eddie Jones turns to Kruis for the big games. A faultless operator on his own ball and an absolute menace on his opponents’ possession. He’ll wade through mauls and always empties the tank. 7.5

Tom Curry: The Kamikaze kid lived up to his billing with strong displays against Tonga, Argentina and the Wallabies. Made a mountain of tackles and got through a barrel of work versus Michael Cheika’s side. A class act. 8.5

Sam Underhill: Like his backrow partner Curry, the totemic Underhill puts in crunching hits and consistently gives 100 per cent. Whenever opposition teams gather momentum, he produces a tackle to give his side a boost. 8

Billy Vunipola: Hasn’t been at his stellar best this tournament, but the attention he receives from opponents is pivotal to creating space for others. Will need to be at full blast on Saturday. 8

Replacements: The ability of George Ford to come off the bench and shine will inspire England. Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam, Jack Nowell and Jonathan Joseph should also add some firepower. 7

TOTAL: 125

NEW ZEALAND

Beauden Barrett: We’ve nearly ran out of superlatives to describe the older Barrett brother. He terrifies the opposition with his pace and his ability to eye gaps from deep is instrumental to setting up attacking opportunities. 10/10

Sevu Reece: Looks threatening whenever he has ball in hand and makes some good, intelligence reads in defence. One of the standout players for the All Blacks in this tournament. 8

Jack Goodhue: Keeps the team moving forward with his clever grubber kicks and appreciation for space. Looked rusty against Ireland after his comeback from a hamstring injury. 7

Anton Lienert-Brown: Acts a neat link in attack and offers the opposition nothing down the defensive channel. Always elusive with ball in hand and times everything to perfection. 8

George Bridge: Must be doing something right is he’s consistently being selected ahead of Rieko Ioane – a player with 24 tries in 28 matches. May not be blessed with the same pace as Reece, but always does the right thing on both sides of the ball. 7

Richie Mo’unga: Orchestrated the attack beautifully against Ireland, putting his team in the right areas of the pitch with his cleverly weighed kicks and polished distribution. 8

Aaron Smith: His vision, razor-like passing and pace to the breakdown ensures his team generates quick ball. Capped off a fine display in the quarter-final with two well-taken tries. 8

Joe Moody: Solid in the set piece, he makes his fair share of tackles when opposition players came darting around the fringes. A physical and disciplined player. 7.5

Cody Taylor: A solid and skilful operator, the Crusaders hooker needs to throw well against England or they will get the upperhand. 8

Nepo Lualua: Has been quiet in terms of his individual contribution but is still an efficient part of a dominant All Blacks pack. 7

Brodie Retallick: A towering presence, the Chiefs man gets through a high volume of work in attack and defence. Will need to be at his absolute prime to get the advantage on Itoje and Kruis. 8.5

Sam Whitelock: After struggling towards the end of last season, the 31-year-old’s titanic display against Ireland makes his poor form of old look like a distant memory now. Carries and tackles well and gets around the field magnificently. 7.5

Ardie Savea: Outstanding in every facet of the game against Namibia and Ireland. Goggles or no goggles, he is a constant menace at the breakdown and seems to be all over the park. Has made 151 metres for 29 carries in four matches. 9

Sam Cane: Hasn’t been firing well in Japan and was replaced at half-time against Ireland due to an injury concern. Still brings a voracious workrate and solid tackling ability to the party. 7

Kieran Reid: Produced his best display in an All Blacks’ shirt for some time against the Men in Green. It’s hard not to see the 33-year-old lifting his third Webb Ellis trophy on Saturday week. 8

Replacements: The All Blacks boast a more superior bench than England with the likes of TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett and Dane Coles all likely to come in and make an immediate impact. 8

TOTAL: 126.5

  • Head down to McGettigan’s JLT this weekend to watch the Rugby World Cup semi-finals and soak up the  atmosphere.

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RWC 2019: Eddie Jones and Steve Hansen express mutual respect ahead of semi-final showdown

Press Association Sport 08:05 22/10/2019
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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.”

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RWC 2019: Wales to call up replacement for injured Josh Navidi

Press Association Sport 16:27 21/10/2019
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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.

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