First, there were "Congratulations." The first words of a reporter at a press conference, even before his first question to Eddie Jones. Then applause, when the coach of England and his captain, Owen Farrell, left the underground hall of Yokohama stadium. Earlier, this Saturday, October 26, the two men had left the surface a great match. Victory of England, defeat of New Zealand.
Take it as you like, on arrival, it's 19-7 in the semifinals for the XV of the Rose. First loss to the World Cup since 2007 for the doubles title holders. A great tactical victory of Eddie Jones, too and above all.
Son of an Australian father and an American-Japanese mother, the England coach first said it in Japanese, between two sips of water: "New Zealand is a deity of rugby". So he wanted to treat her with the necessary respect: "We knew we had to be hyperagressive in defense to deprive them of time and space. We pushed them to make some mistakes, we had maybe a bit of success on some rebounds, and the result is there. "
Two openers instead of one
This victory is not that of the XV, but rather of XXIII of the Rose. Twenty-three names on a game sheet, where there is no longer any question of holders and substitutes. At least in the spirit of Eddie Jones, who built this system since his appointment four years ago, when England was just recovering from an unprecedented "performance": an elimination in the first round of the 2015 World Cup, the very one she organized at home.
An example ? Or rather two? Owen Farrell and George Ford. In the quarterfinals, against Australia a week ago in Oita, the first began opener, as usual. And the second, substitute. Winning configuration (40-16). But different from this Saturday, equally winning against the All Blacks: this time, Farrell was positioned three-quarter center and Ford holder at the opening.
Two openers instead of one, in short. The two men obviously ensured the offensive animation, and the points of the game with the foot: a transformation for Farrell after the early test of Tuilagi, four penalties for Ford. The sign of a New Zealand team undisciplined as rarely (eleven penalties conceded), but also febrile on his throwbacks.
Be careful, Farrell and Ford also know how to tackle. Fifteen tackles each! None of their teammates did more. Not even the Manu Tuilagi center, overpowering as usual. Not even the second line Maro Itoje, named man of the match despite an English misunderstanding in touch, the only flaw allowing New Zealanders to score seven small points shortly before the hour of play.
"Enter modern rugby, join us"
"In these big games, it plays physical and the teams jump at the throat at the outset. We knew what to expect and we wanted to be sure not to be fooled at this game," explained Farrell afterwards (s).
Sometimes Eddie Jones jokes, when it comes to evading an issue. Sometimes no: "The defense counts a lot in the World Cup and the best attack for us is defense. Our defense has been given the means to attack. " What give more to think about the game on foot and its proper use, as the English balloons have pushed the New Zealanders out of harm's way, far from the goal line.
Sometimes Eddie Jones jokes and talks all at once seriously. On October 19, just after the quarterfinal, the coach detailed the management of his players, his "Samurai"as he calls them. His response to a reporter about George Ford: "I did not throw it, buddy, I changed his role. "
That day, Ford made his entry just on the hour, Farrell then passing three-quarters center instead of Henry Slade. "Maybe you should start writing differently, maybe you should stop writing like thirty years ago. "
Another sentence, another sarcasm, after the victory against Australia: " Enter modern rugby, join us, join us … It's an invitation to join us. Rugby has changed, it's a sport that is played at twenty-three. What is your e-mail address, I will send you an e-mail. "
The coach hopes to dispense his next lesson in a week, still in Yokohama. Already titled in 2003, the English will face in the final either their Welsh neighbors or South Africans.