Jones delivers riposte as England await fate

TOKYO • Eddie Jones has responded in typically sharp fashion after Wales coach Warren Gatland questioned whether England had put in their best World Cup performance a week early with a stunning victory over New Zealand.

Gatland was speaking after Wales had been edged out 19-16 in the second semi-final by South Africa, who will now face England in Yokohama on Saturday in a repeat of the 2007 final.

The Welsh will play the All Blacks in the third-place play-off on Friday. It will be Gatland's last match after 12 years in charge coming against his native New Zealand.

"Well, guys, can you just send my best wishes to Warren to make sure he enjoys the third and fourth place play-off," England coach Jones told reporters when Gatland's comments were put to him yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Australian, who was in charge of the Wallabies side that lost to England in the 2003 final, delivered a boost to English hopes of a second world crown by declaring Jonny May had recovered well from a dead leg the wing suffered in a superb 19-7 semi-final win over New Zealand.

The Leicester flyer was in doubt for the All Blacks match because of a hamstring injury and played 45 minutes before leaving the field with a new fitness problem.

But a smiling Jones revealed yesterday: "We had a walk-through this morning and we had to tell Jonny to slow down a bit. He's probably in better condition than he was last week at this stage."

England captain Owen Farrell also suffered a dead leg in the semi-final win but finished the game, though his injury saw George Ford taking over goal-kicking duties.

Meanwhile, England were due to find out whether they will be fined for their V-shaped response to New Zealand's haka before their semi-final victory on Saturday.

England's players revealed that Jones was behind the plan to counter New Zealand's traditional Maori challenge, in order to show they were "ready for anything".

In 2011, France formed an arrow shape and advanced on New Zealand while they performed the haka before the World Cup final. They were fined £2,500 (S$4,400) for breaching a "cultural ritual protocol".

It is understood the protocol states opponents must not cross the halfway line but at the two tips of England's V formation, six players appeared to be standing in the All Blacks' half.

Match officials could be seen trying to encourage the players to return to their own half, but to no avail.

World Rugby was expected to consider yesterday whether any punishment is warranted but, given the precedent set with France eight years ago, it would be a surprise if England were not sanctioned in a similar manner.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2019, with the headline 'Jones delivers riposte as England await fate'. Print Edition | Subscribe