In Depth

Rugby World Cup diary: Australia and England’s verbal war begins

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is glad to avoid host nation Japan in the last eight

England vs. Australia 

  • What: 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final  
  • When: Saturday 19 October  
  • Where: Oita Stadium, Oita, Japan
  • UK start time: 8.15am  
  • TV coverage: live on ITV

The war of words has started between Australia and England ahead of Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash in Oita. 

One storyline dominating the news is the coaching rivalry of England’s Eddie Jones and Australia’s Michael Cheika, which is being billed as the “battle of the big mouths”, Stuff.co.nz reports. 

The Times has described the duo as the “Rugby World Cup’s gobbiest coaches”, with both bosses known for being opinionated in interviews and press conferences. 

Speaking to the media Wallabies chief Cheika was asked about Jones’s comments that England will have an advantage after having two weeks to rest following the cancellation of their final pool game against France. 

Cheika said: “They’ve had the best preparation according to the coach so they’d better go out there and win. We’ll see how we go. 

“The only relevance is Saturday. It doesn’t matter, all the different things, who’s had a week off, who’s had a week on, who’s been resting, who hasn’t.”

The Daily Mail says the “week of wind-ups has begun” with England’s Australian coach Jones and rival Cheika trading jibes.  

Jones has invited Australian rugby league legend Ricky Stuart to England’s training camp and The Sun says that “grumpy” Cheika is “already wound-up” by Jones’s behaviour.

When asked for his view on England, The Sun adds that “crabby” Cheika grunted: “Don’t really have one, mate. I’m interested in our blokes, our team and our analysis so that it can help us be better.”

Fiery press conference

Australia forwards Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Tolu Latu got involved in a fiery clash with English journalists during a press conference. 

Reporters asked the duo about head coach Cheika and whether the Aussies can cause an upset in Saturday’s last-eight encounter. 

The Daily Mail reports that hooker Latu laughed off one question as a “complete joke”. One reporter said: “Is it awkward when you get asked about your coach? You’re all giggling as if you didn’t want to answer, or you thought it was a stupid question - not quite sure which one?”

Latu responded: “Stupid question. To ask it, I don’t know, it’s different for you guys and different for us. For us, it comes across as a stupid question so that’s why we’re all laughing.

“Obviously, you’re asking us a question that we think is a complete joke so, if you’re going to ask us questions like that, we’ll take it as a joke and throw it back at you.”

When asked if Australia believe they can beat England, Salakaia-Loto snapped and said: “Because we can, why not? We all believe it, we’re not just going to sit here and go, ‘Oh, don’t think we believe it’, of course we can. We all believe that we can do whatever we want to do, if we put our mind to it.”

New Zealand rugby union head coach Steve Hansen announces his decision

Fiona Goodall/AFP/Getty Images

New Zealand vs. Ireland 

  • What: RWC quarter-final  
  • When: Saturday 19 October  
  • Where: Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan
  • UK start time: 11.15am  
  • TV coverage: live on ITV

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen admits he’s happy that his two-time defending champions are not facing Japan in the quarter-finals.

The in-form host nation won pool A after beating Russia, Ireland, Samoa and Scotland and will now play South Africa on Sunday. Pool B winners New Zealand face Ireland next on Saturday.

After watching the Brave Blossoms beat Scotland 28-21, All Blacks coach Hansen said of Japan: “That’s a good way to play footy isn’t it? It’s worked against Ireland and it’s now worked against Scotland and their other pool opponents, Samoa. 

“People have said, ‘who do you want to play?’ Well, they’re the in-form team, I’m quite happy they’re on the other side of the draw.”

Suspended Aki ruled out

Ireland have been handed a major blow ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final against the All Blacks after centre Bundee Aki was ruled out of the rest of the tournament through suspension. 

Aki was sent off for a high tackle during the 47-5 pool A win against Samoa and an independent judicial committee has confirmed he will be banned for the next three games. 

“The player sought to overturn the red card,” World Rugby said in a statement. “Having considered all the angles of the incident, together with evidence from the player and his representatives, the committee upheld the decision of the referee.”

RWC quarter-final fixtures

  • Saturday 19 October: England vs. Australia (8.15am; Oita Stadium, Oita; live on ITV) 
  • Saturday 19 October: New Zealand vs. Ireland (11.15am; Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo; live on ITV) 
  • Sunday 20 October: Wales vs. France (8.15am; Oita Stadium, Oita; live on ITV) 
  • Sunday 20 October: Japan vs. South Africa (11.15am; Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo; live on ITV)

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