21 Oct 2019

'There's always a better Samurai around the corner' - Jones

8:04 pm on 21 October 2019

The semi-finalists have been found at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, but most people think the All Blacks clash with England will in essence be the final.

Steve Hansen, Eddie Jones, Warren Gatland and Rassie Erasmus

Clockwise, from left: coaches Steve Hansen, Eddie Jones, Warren Gatland and Rassie Erasmus. Photo: RNZ / AFP

Wales and the Springboks round out the last four, but neither were impressive in the way they reached the semi-finals.

South Africa were the last team to qualify for the final four, ending the fairytale run of hosts Japan with a 26-3 win in Tokyo.

The Boks were bruising on defence but offered very little on attack and coach Rassie Erasmus knows they'll need to be more consistent to push further into the tournament.

"Don't give soft moments away, then we have a chance. And be consistent, that's the biggest work-on for us."

South Africa flyhalf Handre Pollard catches a high ball during the second half of Japan v South Africa, Quarter Final, Rugby World Cup 2019 at Tokyo Stadium, Japan. 20th October 2019. C

The Springboks will need more than the strong defensive skills they showed against Japan if they are to win the Rugby World Cup. Photo: Photosport

Erasmus talks about the All Blacks, who they could meet in the final, but they'll have to get past Wales first in Yokohama on Sunday.

"They are definitely a team with a lot of X factor. They have a great coaching staff, and they have created depth in every single position. Yes, they have real confidence and good team spirit. They will be a real challenge for us."

Wales were even less convincing than South Africa, they needed a red card to the opposition and a last gasp try and conversion to get past a French team who had largely been a rabble before last night's quarter-final.

Coach Warren Gatland concedes they got lucky in Oita.

"I think the better team lost today. That red card was obviously significant.

"The thing about our boys is they didn't give up. They kept trying to the end."

Trying is one thing but winning is another and Gatland says they'll have to lift their standards significantly if they're to be a title threat.

"We need to go away and look at some critical areas. Some teams have been quite effective in playing against us and getting some success. We need to address that.

"But we're in a semi-final at the Rugby World Cup and you've got 240 minutes to do something for the rest of your life. And we're down to 160 now."

It's hard to see either the Springboks or Wales reaching the levels the All Blacks and England have, with the victor in Saturday's clash in Yokohama expected to go on and win the whole thing.

The England coach Eddie Jones is as confident as ever after crushing the Wallabies in their quarter-final, but he knows the All Blacks are a different beast and he's asking his players to find an even sharper edge for the semi-final.

"The best samurais were always guys who had a plan but could adapt. They had a calm head but are also full of aggression. I thought our guys were like that today. The challenge is how we get better because there's always a better samurai around the corner."

England's wing Anthony Watson (L) is tackled during the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match between England and Australia at the Oita Stadium in Oita on October 19, 2019. (Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP)

Coach Eddie Jones is happy with the manner of England's win over Australia but knows they will have to lift another gear to get past the All Blacks. Photo: AFP

The All Blacks were equally if not more impressive in their dismantling of Ireland in their last eight match, and coach Steve Hansen says if they play to the best of their ability they have a pretty good shot at winning.

He says the challenge will be to stop his players from tightening up when the pressure comes on.

"We know they going to be tough, you don't win 18 test matches in a row without being a good team. And that's basically the team he has here.

"They are playing good footy, so they will be confident. As we will be, we are also playing good footy.

"We just have to make sure as a coaching and management group, that we create an environment where these guys can really express themselves come Saturday."

If both teams do that, it should make for one hell of a test match.

Beauden Barrett scores a try.
New Zealand All Blacks v Ireland. 1/4 Final, Rugby World Cup 2019. Tokyo Stadium, Japan, Saturday 19 October 2019. © Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz

Beauden Barrett and the All Blacks were exceptional during their drubbing of Ireland - now England awaits. Photo: PhotoSport