England 'primed' for anything as typhoon threatens World Cup
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: England will not suffer from any loss of momentum if this weekend’s Rugby World Cup clash with France is cancelled due to violent weather, prop Dan Cole insisted Wednesday.
The heavyweight Pool C game on Saturday and hosts Japan’s crunch Pool A showdown with Scotland a day later, both at Yokohama, are in danger of being washed out by an approaching typhoon.
But Cole promised that England coach Eddie Jones would have the players match-sharp for the quarter-finals if the fixture is called off – which would see England advance as group winners along with France.
“I think if anything does happen, I’m sure Eddie and the staff will be primed,” he said.
“We won’t just be sat twiddling our thumbs in the hotel room. We’ll be out working and making sure we maintain our sharpness throughout the tournament.”
Cole squirmed a little when asked about life under Jones, whose abrasive style has ruffled feathers wherever the Australian has gone.
“It’s never easy because he sets such high demands,” admitted Cole.
“Eddie pushes the team hard but if you want to be successful you’ve got to be pushed hard and the boys have responded to that,” he added.
“Eddie has won World Cups before and been in World Cup finals. He has the experience and has been there before and done it.
“He has a plan and he’s never satisfied with what’s happened before – Eddie brings that ability to make sure everybody is aligned.”
Defence coach John Mitchell also denied that England were concerned about weather disruptions as Typhoon Hagibis nears, also putting this week’s Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka at risk.
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‘Pressure is immense’
“We don’t let that kind of noise deter our preparation,” he said about alarmist weather reports.
“We pride ourselves on being adaptable and flexible for anything that’s thrown at us,” added Mitchell, who confirmed that England are likely to rest Billy Vunipola’s sore ankle until the quarter-finals.
“Ultimately if there are factors outside of our control, we’ll find other ways to prepare.”
Mitchell brushed off suggestions that England’s 44-8 Six Nations thrashing of France at Twickenham earlier this year would give them a psychological advantage this weekend.
“That really hasn’t come into our thinking,” said the New Zealander.
“World Cup rugby is a totally different beast — it’s a one-off and has its different pressures. As you can see from some of the big games in this tournament, the pressure is immense.”
England, still the only northern hemisphere side to lift the World Cup after Jonny Wilkinson’s extra-time drop goal floored Jones’s Australia in the 2003 final, are unbeaten in Pool C after wins over Tonga (35-3), the United States (45-7) and Argentina (39-10).
But Cole conceded that the English – who have minor injury concerns over Joe Marler (back) and Jack Nowell (hamstring) – have yet to hit top gear.
“We want to keep the momentum going that we’ve built in the first three games,” said the Leicester prop.
“We haven’t played our best game of rugby yet – that’s evident from the first three games, but we’re still building and still getting better.”