MIYAZAKI, Japan (AFP) – England captain Owen Farrell said yesterday that memories of the team’s horror World Cup four years ago will be a driving force as they seek redemption in Japan.
Farrell, part of the Stuart Lancaster-coached England side that became the first host nation to fail to reach the knockout stage, warned they were a different animal this time, and the players could not wait for the tournament to start after settling at their base in Miyazaki, southern Japan.
“It’s obviously different – it’s four years ago,” said the Saracens flyhalf. “A lot of work has been done since then but it will spur people on. What I can say is that we’re in a very good place now. We’re continuing to build and we’re looking forward to this tournament – the lads can’t wait to get going.”
Prop Ellis Genge, who was not involved in the last World Cup, insisted this England team would not be paralysed by fear, revealing that coach Eddie Jones wants his players to try and play xpansive rugby.
“He’s definitely told us to just be ourselves,” said Genge. “Obviously we didn’t have a great tournament last time, but he told us to express ourselves and keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”
England, who have completed the Grand Slam and won another Six Nations title since Jones took over after their shambolic 2015 World Cup campaign, arrive in Japan in fine fettle after smashing title rivals Ireland 57-15 and thumping Italy 37-0 in their final two warm-up games.
They face Tonga in their opening match in Sapporo on September 22, before further Group C fixtures against the United States (US), Argentina and France as they look to emulate the England side that won the World Cup n 2003.
Mako Vunipola (hamstring) and Jack Nowell (appendix) are not expected to return to the side until the third or fourth game, but Jones looked relaxed at his first official press conference in Japan.
“Obviously we had a rigorous travel schedule,” said the Australian, referring to the transport chaos triggered by a typhoon that marooned England’s squad at Tokyo’s Narita airport for five hours after their long-haul flight earlier in the week.
“But we’ve settled in well and got used to the conditions. We’ve deliberately only done light training up until now but we will have a more vigorous workout this afternoon,” added Jones, who famously led Japan to three victories at the last World Cup. There’s a good feeling in the camp. Now we can begin the serious preparation for the World Cup.”
England, among several title contenders including treble-chasing New Zealand, South Africa and northern hemisphere rivals Wales and Ireland, are staying at a sun-kissed honeymoon resort in Miyazaki, where Jones used to subject the Japan team to brutal training sessions that left many of them seeing stars.
“I can still see some of the sweat of the players on the ground,” smiled Jones, who created the blueprint for Japan’s astonishing 34-32 World Cup upset over South Africa among the palm trees and hibiscus of the luxury retreat.
“It’s nice to come back, it’s a great place to train. The players can play golf, they went to the beach yesterday. It’s a place where you can prepare to win and that’s why we came here.”