England's fly-half George Ford and team mates attend the captain's run training session in Yokohama. AFP
Iconic Alex Ferguson has not only been an inspiration to players from the world of football, he has also been a lodestar for coaches from other fields of sport as well. Such as rugby.
Now England coach Eddie Jones heads into a World Cup semi-final against New Zealand taking inspiration from legendary football manager Alex Ferguson.
Saturday’s fixture in Yokohama will be the key fixture of Jones’s four-year reign, with the veteran Australian making no secret of his desire to lead England to World Cup glory following their embarrassing first-round exit on home soil in 2015.
But they face the toughest challenge possible this weekend, with reigning champions New Zealand having not lost a World Cup match since a 2007 quarter-final defeat by France.
The All Blacks are now bidding for a third successive global crown and fourth in total.
England have won just seven out of 41 Tests against New Zealand, with their last victory back in 2012.
However, in their only previous match against the All Blacks under Jones, in November last year, England pushed them close before losing 16-15, with flanker Sam Underhill having a try disallowed for a marginal offside by Courtney Lawes.
When Ferguson took over as manager of Manchester United in 1986 he said he wanted to knock Liverpool, then the dominant side in the English game, “off their perch”.
Ferguson’s trophy-laden reign at Old Trafford was proof of how he lived up to his words, and Jones said he now wants England to follow suit.
“That’s what we’ve got the opportunity to do. When you’ve been involved in rugby the country you want to knock off is New Zealand because they’ve been the best,” Jones said.
“And the reason you’re involved in this game is you want to be the best,” added Jones, the coach of his native Australia when they beat the All Blacks in a semi-final of the 2003 World Cup.
“You’ve got the opportunity to change rugby history on Saturday,” Jones added.
“When we played New Zealand in November we learned that you’ve got to be alive in every moment of the game. There were times when we weren’t and we allowed them back in the game. That’s been the greatest lesson of all.”
Jones -- who invited Ferguson into the England camp earlier in the tournament -- has recalled George Ford at fly-half after he came off the bench during an emphatic 40-16 quarter-final win over Australia.
England captain Owen Farrell, a fly-half against the Wallabies, moves to inside centre alongside childhood friend Ford, with Jones reverting to the two playmaker system that has served him well for much of his time as Red Rose boss.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has also made one change to the side that hammered Ireland 46-14, with Scott Barrett at blindside flanker to combat England’s “kamikaze kids” Underhill and Tom Curry.
Jones insisted earlier in the week that all the pressure was on New Zealand as no one gave England a chance.
But it is 12 years since England last made it to a World Cup final, losing to South Africa.
Hansen appeared to suggest England’s record put them under at least as much pressure as the All Blacks in what he hoped would be a “game for the ages”.
“We’ve arrived at this point with vastly different experiences from previous Rugby World Cups,” said Hansen. “No doubt, those experiences will resurface throughout the week and even in the game itself.”
England’s 31-man World Cup squad contains 13 players who were involved in the British and Irish Lions’ drawn series in New Zealand two years ago, and Jones said: “It has helped having players here who have been on the Lions tour and played against New Zealand.
“New Zealand are a great team... like any good team, you have to take away time and space from them and you have to find areas you can pressure them,” Jones said.
“We believe we have identified a number of areas where we can do that.”
George Ford steered England to a stunning 19-7 win over New Zealand at the rugby World Cup semi-finals on Saturday. The victory also ended defending Champions All Blacks’ eight-year reign at the showpiece event,
Fly-half George Ford led the way as England ended New Zealand's eight-year reign as champions with a superb 19-7 World Cup semi-final win in Yokohama on Saturday.
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