England defence coach John Mitchell oversees training drills at the Fuchu Asahi Football Park in Japan. Picture: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Defence coach says England can pile pressure on South Africa

England defence coach John Mitchell says his side can match Saturday’s World Cup final opponents South Africa for pressure, even though the Springboks will always love to have an “intimidator” in their pack, and Mitchell remembers the days when acts of sheer violence peppered their physicality.

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Dejection on the Wales bench during their defeat by South Africa. Picture: PA.

Rugby World Cup: ‘We can hold our heads high’ says proud Warren Gatland

After the delight, the drudgery. World Cup semi-finals in any sport are often only about the winning, and this was emphatically one of those as South Africa ended Wales’ brave bid for the title with a kick-a-thon of route-one tactics in complete contrast to England’s wildly exciting win over New Zealand at the same stadium the night before. The Springboks reached their third World Cup final – they won the previous two, in 1995 and 2007 – with four penalty goals by Handre Pollard plus the stand-off’s conversion of a try by Damian de Allende in the third quarter which his opposite number Dan Biggar will remember with a great deal less joy than his other mighty contributions to Wales’s campaign in Japan.

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Eddie Jones urges England to make a splash in World Cup semi-final

England’s players giggled as they ran through puddles for Friday’s eve-of-semi-final training run in a torrential rainstorm at the Yokohama International Stadium, and still it was difficult to equate this easy-going attitude with the talk of life-changing events and rewriting history coming from the mouth of their head coach over the last few weeks.

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Eddie Jones says his England side have nothing to lose when they face New Zealand in the World Cup semi-finals. Picture: Getty

England coach Eddie Jones cranks up pressure on New Zealand

Eddie Jones might have been back in the classroom at the International Grammar School in Sydney, where he first worked as a teacher with a degree in education, majoring in PE and geography, long before rugby coaching took him to sporting fame and fortune. There was no whiteboard on which England’s Aussie boss could write the title of his lecture doubling as a media conference yesterday but everyone present knew it to be: “Pressure on the All Blacks and how to apply it.”

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Japan's Kotaro Matsushima scores his team's fourth try in their victory against Russia. Picture: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Japan 30-10 Russia: Rugby World Cup hosts get the party started

The first Rugby World Cup to be staged in Asia is up and running, with an already distinctive tone and flair, thanks to a wing born in South Africa to a Zimbabwean father who scored a hat-trick for his mother’s country Japan and painstakingly put away a Russian team doggedly refusing to accept the role of opening-night easybeats.

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Scotland winger Sean Maitland hands off England's Henry Slade. Picture: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

Injury prevention underpins new cycle of rugby law amendments

It was JPR Williams who suggested it, a quarter of a century ago. Rugby union will one day need to remove two players from the field, the great Wales full-back said, or it will run out of space. In 2019, that sanction remains off the table, but World Rugby have acceded to an alarming injury rate with a new mission statement underpinning its latest conference to look at improvements to the laws, held over three days near Paris this week: “The future shape of rugby will be determined by evidence-based injury-prevention initiatives“.

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Alun Wyn Jones holds the Six Nations trophy high after Wales' win over Ireland on Saturday. Picture: PA.

Wyn-win scenario for Wales as they seal Grand Slam in style

Among the sights and sounds of a Welsh Grand Slam, the indigenous songs in the Principality Stadium lingered in the ears for hours: the national anthem and Hymns and Arias and Have a Nice Day and What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? No, it was Alun Wyn Jones, and the Irish needed to do much more than wrench his knee in a horrible first-half hyperextension to stop the mighty captain of Wales tackling and hitting rucks and running off line-outs and being the standout personality of this Six Nations, by a street.

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England's Elliot Daly can only watch on in anguish as Josh Adams touches down for Wales' match-clinching second try.''Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Bigger picture looms for Biggar as Wales leave England reeling

In the aftermath of a glorious, ­cacophonous occasion, Dan Biggar was seeing a bigger picture, as befits Wales’ king of cool. Biggar came on for Gareth Anscombe as substitute stand-off and lobbed the long pass and cross-kick that created thrilling last-quarter tries for Cory Hill and Josh Adams; turning an England lead of 13-9 into a season-defining defeat.

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France have recalled outside centre Mathieu Bastareaud to face England. Picture: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images

France must be wary of beefed-up England’s fast start

Watching England is becoming a seat-of-the-pants exercise. Take your seat just a little late at Twickenham or in front of the TV on Sunday, and you risk missing a try. Never mind the scrum’s dark arts, Owen Farrell’s team are currently the masters of the fast start, as they get set for round two of the Six Nations, at home to France.

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New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick is stopped in his tracks by England at Twickenham. Picture: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Eddie Jones’ numbers game adds up to another England defeat by New Zealand

How to define this thing called “experience”? Eddie Jones would like to distil it into a digestible fact, of England needing 800 caps between them by the time the World Cup final comes round, a year from now, in Yokohama, Japan – almost double the 400-odd his team are currently fielding. The head coach’s sums need work, as Jones reckons the restoration of the injured Vunipola brothers would be worth “150” caps, whereas they currently possess 93, and there are a maximum of 30 more available if they play every Test from January through to the global decider. But the essential point is clear, and Stuart Lancaster, Jones’s immediate predecessor, used to say the same, not that it helped or indeed mattered a toss when Lancaster’s England crashed out of the last World Cup before the quarter-finals.

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Owen Farrell  will be sharing captaincy duties with Dylan Hartley for England against South Africa today. Picture: Getty.

Owen Farrell has faith in fundamentals as freshmen face Springboks

Owen Farrell leaned forward in his chair and interlocked the fingers of the hands that will guide England from stand-off at Twickenham this afternoon. “I’ve not thought about it in that way, I’ve not,” said the man with the unusual title of co-captain, with a defiant flash of fire in his blue eyes, in answer to the question of whether his injury-hit side will be “up against it” against a highly-regarded South Africa. “We got together,” said Farrell, “we trained hard, enjoyed it and we are now excited for a home game against a good team. We know we will have to work hard and that is good.”

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England wing Jonny May, left, celebrates his try against South Africa with stand-off Danny Cipriani. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images

England stop rot but questions remain for Eddie Jones

Definitive statements on the back of England’s 25-10 win in Cape Town in Saturday’s dead-rubber final fixture of the three-match tour of South Africa are difficult to make, other than the obvious one that, with huge relief for Eddie Jones’ squad, and a brief dab of quality from Danny Cipriani, they snapped their troubling sequence of five straight Test defeats.

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Eddie Jones in need of an England victory after losing run

Flaming June, eh? This time two years ago, Eddie Jones was more than England’s flavour of the month. His ruthless first-half substitutions, adventurous selection of a stand-off (Owen Farrell) at No 12, resurrection of Chris Robshaw and promotion of Dylan Hartley to be captain were accorded the word “genius” in one rugby periodical. England beat Australia 3-0 on their tour of June 2016 and the red rose was blooming under its Aussie guru.

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Ireland skipper Rory Best during the captain's run at Twickenham. Picture: PA

Ireland aim to fulfil grand ambition at Twickenham

At around a quarter to five this St Patrick’s Day afternoon, Ireland’s players will climb a podium in the middle of England’s home pitch at Twickenham and receive their Six Nations winners’ medals in shirt-number order, with the captain Rory Best held back to be presented with the Championship trophy.

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France wing Teddy Thomas cuts a dejected figure after the defeat by Scotland at BT Murrayfield. Picture: AFP/Getty

France a global rugby power in disarray

On Saturday afternoon at the Stade de France, half an hour before the home team take on England in the Six Nations Championship, Bernard Laporte will shake hands with Edouard Philippe, the French Prime Minister, and Bill Beaumont, the boss of World Rugby, and officially begin France’s run-in to hosting the 2023 World Cup. It is unlikely Laporte, the chairman of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), will take questions from the assembled press on the public prosecutor’s ongoing investigation into his alleged conflict of interest – but with the state of the Gallic game as it is, how can anyone be sure?

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