England have booked a first World Cup Final appearance since France in 2007. They did that with a terrific composed 19-7 win over defending champions New Zealand. New Zealnd came into this game after a strong performance when swatting Ireland aside last weekend 46-14. On this occasion England had the ideal game plan that was certainly moulded from there narrow loss last November.
The axis of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill got the better of the Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea pairing that saw Barrett called ashore at half time to be replaced by Sam Cane.
The decision of Steve Hansen to pick Scott Barrett was a risk but on this occasion it did not work out and England who started like they had done throughout 2019 scored a cracking try after 2 minutes through Manu Tuilagi after some sublime handling that saw Kyle Sinkler provide a key tip on pass that finished with Tuilagi busting over.
England were very dominant in the opening 40 minutes and from the off they looked like team very in tune with the task at hand. From the moment the Haka took place and England formed a semi circle very similar to what England did in 1998 when the sides met in Twickenham. This was a signal that England would not fold easily in the face of taking on the World Champions.
Eddie Jones has worked very hard since taking on the England job in late 2015 after the disastrous efforts at the 2015 World Cup. His stated aim was to win a World Cup on Japanese soil. He worked very hard in 2016 to start his plan to get England back to the top of the tree where they feel they should always be. In 2016 they won the Grand Slam beating France in Paris in the final week to secure the Grand Slam. In 2017 they won the Six Nations and were continuing to integrate many of the players that were key to victory this morning.
Men like Sam Underhill who moved from Ospreys to play his club rugby with Bath, Tom Curry who alongside his twin Ben were key members of the England Under 20 side in 2017 also made waves and were in the wider England training squad as the Jones era took shape.
Eddie Jones also stated once he took on the job that he would work to build a new England side full of young players and this team is back boned by Under 20 World Championship winners from the last 5 years.
New Zealand did not look happy this morning and to me it looked as if the lack of tough games since facing South Africa on the opening weekend came back to haunt Steve Hansen’s men. The lack of experience in his 23 this morning might also have come back to bite Steve Hansen who left experienced men like Ben Smith and Reiko Ioane out of his 23.
Youthful exuberance is great but when the pressure comes on it looked as if Sevu Reece and George Bridge were struggling. Both men were driven into touch and those moments were massive the overall scheme of things.
Owen Farrell and George Ford worked well in tandem where as Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett did not match the heights that they have done only a few times since this was first tried out in July. This move seemed to be made after the loss to Ireland in 2018 and also the narrow win over England on the end of year tour.
Many people have made plenty of the Irish failure from last weekend where some players were selected where others players in better form may have done a better job but the fact that Brodie Rettalick was brought straight into the starting team at the quarter final after only 30 minutes in the Pool phase may have also contributed to how under cooked New Zealand looked this morning. It is not often you can say that about an New Zealand team but this time Steve Hansen can have no complaints about the defeat. He and his side will now go into a third / fourth place play off next Friday.
England will now be able to fully focus on a World Cup Final at 9am next Saturday. They can now settle in and watch South Africa vs Wales and plan for whichever side wins in the second Semi Final….