Owen Farrell has urged England to tap into the nation’s love for big tournaments by generating a feelgood factor around the World Cup.
Eddie Jones’ title contenders open their pool campaign against Tonga at the Sapporo Dome on Sunday hoping to deliver a statement performance after arriving in Japan intent on reclaiming the Webb Ellis Trophy.
And having seen how supporters throw their weight behind England teams when there is the hope of success, Farrell has called on his team-mates to provide cause for celebration.
“Whenever a team has got to the knockout stages and built some momentum, the country goes mental for it,” Farrell said.
“The football World Cup last year was a massive example of that. The cricket World Cup again showed loads of momentum towards the end and the Women’s World Cup was also brilliant.
“England’s a fantastic place that builds loads of momentum when there’s a tournament on and every time one comes around you get involved in it.
“I already know how good the nation is at getting behind the team at tournaments like this.
“We’ve all been to one of them, whether it was the football World Cup, Cricket World Cup, you see the momentum that gathers back home and I’m sure those teams were able to feed off that.
“Hopefully we give them something to cheer about while we’re here and get some momentum from it. People love to see England do well at big tournaments.
“We would’ve all been one of those people and hopefully to be part of that and to get that feeling for hopefully what’s in front of us would be special.
“I’m very lucky to be part of this team. It’s a fantastic team, one that’s left no stone unturned in terms of preparation. We feel like we’re in a good place.
“Now we’ve got to be able to put that preparation into play on Sunday and be able to almost enjoy every minute of it.”
Farrell insists England are ready for anything the next six weeks throw up as they look to make the most of a rare opportunity.
“Obviously you want to be in control of what you’re doing. You don’t want to let your emotions control you,” Farrell said.
“But it’s a big part of the game, it’s a big part of getting yourself in the right place to perform. And that’s for some more than others.
“Everyone’s a bit different in terms of the way they use that. As a team we’ll be pretty clear. It’s an unbelievable opportunity to be part of a brilliant tournament.
“It only comes along every four years, which makes it extra special and it’s when everyone is at their best. We feel like we’re in a place where we’re ready to go.
“Good and bad there will be a lot of things that go on along on the way and hopefully we’re well equipped to deal with it.”
Reigning champions New Zealand were ruthless and clinical as they squashed South Africa to open up their Rugby World Cup defence with a 23-13 victory over the Springboks.
A Handre Pollard penalty opened the scoring in Yokohama City as Rassie Erasmus’ side stormed out of the blocks. But tries from George Bridge and Scott Barrett in quick succession put the All Blacks in the ascendancy.
The Boks were much better after the interval and Pieter-Steph du Toit swan-dived over to get them back in it. But the All Blacks retained a degree of order with two late penalties keeping them in control.
Here are our talking points from an enthralling Test match.
NEW BOYS BRIDGE THE GAP
Eyebrows were raised on the eve of the game when Steve Hansen named Sevu Reece and George Bridge as his starting wings. Players with five (Bridge) and three (Reece) caps starting in the biggest tournament there is.
And yet, as has been the case throughout the years with All Blacks players, nothing fazes them. They are built to be the best. After the 2015 World Cup, rivals thought it was their time to close the gap following the retirements of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Keven Mealamu.
Instead, Sam Cane, Beauden Barrett, Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown and Codie Taylor – among others – stepped in seamlessly to fill the void. So it should come as no surprise then that Reece and Bridge nervelessly entered the elite level and played like they had always belonged.
Crusaders flyer Reece, 22, made the third most metres of any player (59), behind only team-mate Lienert-Brown (63) and South Africa’s Cheslin Kolbe (118). He also made the joint-most clean breaks (2) and it was his surging run down the right win that led to New Zealand’s opening try.
It was scored by his Crusaders colleague Bridge, 24, who beat three defenders during the game – as did Reece. Both were also more than effective in defence – Bridge missing just one of his eight attempted tackles.
Reliable Hansen lieutenant Rieko Ioane was supposedly going to get the nod against the Springboks. On this evidence the winger with 23 tries in 26 Tests is likely to stay waiting in the wings a little longer.
PRESSURE INTO POINTS FOR SOUTH AFRICA
The Boks sprung into life from the start and the first 20 minutes resembled something of a green battering ram hammering away at their black-shirted opponents.
But, when you’re on top against the All Blacks, capitalising on momentum is key. Erasmus’ side aren’t a bunch of rag-tag misfits just happy to be at a World Cup and catching the rusty defending champions off guard in their opener. The Rugby Championship victors have beaten and drawn against the world’s best side inside the last 12 months.
Their start was ferocious, hulking skipper Duane Vermeulen seemingly on a mission as he shed would-be tacklers aside. Where he led, others followed, Du Toit foraged for both opportunities to force any kind of hole in the All Blacks defence while Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert dominated the lineout.
But for all their battering, Pollard’s sole penalty was all they had to show for their hard work. Having looked flustered and fragile, two tries in four minutes flipped the script completely. While the 1995 and 2007 champions had been made to chip away at the black wall, New Zealand tore the green one down completely.
At 17-3 down the Springboks could have crumbled but they stood tall. Although there was a sense the clinical All Blacks were always in control and holding them at arm’s length – thanks to the brilliance of metronome Beauden Barrett. Speaking of…
BIG GAMES FROM BARRETT BROTHERS
Beauden, Scott and Jordie. Three of the five Barrett brothers are in Hansen’s World Cup squad. Beauden, Scott and Jordie created history last June when they became the first trio of brothers to start in the same Test for New Zealand, against France.
What isn’t so historical but incredibly impressive is that the Barrett brothers are – remarkably – the 47th set of siblings to play together in the famous black shirt. Sam, George and Luke Whitelock are the only other trio but never played in the same Test together.
Big men upholding a big name and a big tradition. It was fitting then that Beauden and Scott, who both started against South Africa, were instrumental to victory.
A lot was made of long-time Hurricanes and new Blues fly-half Beauden being shunted to full-back to accommodate Richie Mo’unga at 10. But if the Springboks thought that would lessen his impact they could not have been more wrong, as he put in a man-of-the-match performance.
Scott scored the second try and his 32 metres made was the sixth highest of those in black, while his 10 tackles was joint top among colleagues too. Winning his 32nd cap since his 2016 debut, he is now a lock for the second lock spot alongside Sam Whitelock – although that might change when Brodie Retallick returns.
The All Blacks got their 2019 Rugby World Cup off to a winning start as they turned on the style brilliantly to blitz the Springboks 23-13 in Yokohama City.
South Africa sprang into life against the two-time defending world champions but only had a Handre Pollard penalty to show for their early efforts. New Zealand then got into gear as George Bridge and Scott Barrett went over in quick succession.
The Boks were much better after the interval as two giants of world rugby put on a show, and Pieter-Steph du Toit swan-dived over to get them back in it. But the All Blacks retained a degree of order with two late penalties keeping them in control.
Here, we analyse a stunning performance from New Zealand talisman Beauden Barrett.
A lot was made of Steve Hansen’s selections coming into a crucial World Cup opener against a side that have beaten them and secured a draw in the last 12 months.
Chief among them was shunting the instrumental Barrett to full-back so as to allow another playmaker, Richie Mo’unga, to share dual playmaking abilities.
In essence Barrett was still the man, flawless in both defence and attack. With New Zealand under the cosh in the first 20 minutes he was coolness personified and was then in the thick of the action when the All Blacks burst into life with two tries in four minutes.
Under intense pressure following a Cheslin Kolbe break when South Africa rallied early in the second half, Barrett received possession in his own in-goal area after a superb tackle on Kolbe by Mo’unga.
Flustered? Flawless more like as the full-back ran it out of the danger zone and the Blacks almost broke loose.
A minute later he was taking a Sevu Reece pass on the right wing and launching his team forward, an outrageous banana grubber kick somehow stayed in play and almost led to a try-scoring chance.
Points – 3
Runs – 17
Metres made – 56
Carries – 16
Passes – 12
Handling errors – 0
Defenders beaten – 7
Tackles – 2
Missed tackles – 4
Turnovers conceded – 2
GOT RIGHT – STRING-PULLER EXTRAORDINAIRE
Think you’re safe from him, or his influence on a game is diminished by pushing him back to full-back while promoting Mo’unga to 10? Forget about it. Mo’unga is a marvellous talent who has some serious playmaking ability. He may even be wearing the hallowed No10 jersey at the beginning of this World Cup. But Barrett is still the brains.
The Blues star remains his nation’s most pivotal playmaker even if he may be sat deeper. In fact, at 15 he is able to scan the entire field ahead of him. And when you’re one of the game’s most gifted visionaries, you’re able to suddenly see method in Hansen’s madness.
Not only was Barrett coolness personified as South Africa squeezed early on, calmly clearing his lines when handed a hot potato by Reece, he was the conductor when New Zealand cranked the volume up.
He made 30 metres, with only Anton Lienert-Brown beating more defenders in the first half. Only three more players made more metres, only two beat more defenders.
GOT WRONG – RISKY BUSINESS
A tiny blotch on his match card was allowing a degree of sloppiness to creep into his game. There was a glut of missed tackles (4) and two turnovers conceded in his own half, but it feels like we’re desperately clutching at straws just so we can find a flaw – which we are.
Because in reality Barrett could not be faulted. Against high quality opposition, you always expect to be tested, and New Zealand were. But for any fault found, Barrett was unflappable.
After a scintillating performance for the @AllBlacks against South Africa, Beauden Barrett was named the @Mastercard Player of the Match #StartSomethingPriceless #POTM #RWC2019 #NZLvRSA pic.twitter.com/D9BOmsia8n— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 21, 2019
Wherever he bases himself on the field, Barrett can beat you – evidenced best by electing to run a turnover from the shadow of their own posts. There is nothing he doesn’t feel can be achieved.
There were a plethora of impressive pieces of play you could pick to highlight his influence. But an outrageous piece of play from an outrageous talent is Barrett in a nutshell.