In Brief

Rugby World Cup: ‘spy’ watches England train ahead of All Blacks semi-final

Holders New Zealand are braced for a ‘mighty clash’ in Yokohama

Jones: we’ve been spied on

England head coach Eddie Jones claims that “spies” watched his squad train on Tuesday as they prepared for their Rugby World Cup semi-final against New Zealand. 

Jones’s side take on the two-time defending champions in Yokohama on Saturday and he says onlookers filmed the training session in Tokyo Bay from a nearby apartment building. 

He did not specifically accuse the All Blacks of spying but joked that they may have sent someone to film the session, The Daily Telegraph reports. 

“There was definitely someone in the apartment block filming but it might have been a Japanese fan,” said Jones. 

“I don’t care mate. We have got someone there [watching New Zealand training] now. We knew it from the start, but it doesn’t change anything, we love it.” 

Kiwis ready for mighty clash

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is expecting a ferocious encounter on Saturday. It’s 20 years since the sides last met in the Rugby World Cup and Hansen is braced for a stiff challenge in Yokohama. 

“They’re playing good footy so they’ll be confident, as we will be,” he told reporters. “England are a good side. It’s going to be a mighty clash. Against Australia they didn’t have a lot of the ball but they kept scoring.”

New Zealand rugby union head coach Steve Hansen announces his decision

Fiona Goodall/AFP/Getty Images

Fight the frustration

Australia thrashed New Zealand 47-26 when the two sides met in the Rugby Championship in August, so Hansen appreciates the threat posed by Jones’s England team. 

“I watched the first half of it [quarter-final] and Australia hammered and hammered and got no success,” he said. 

“When you get no success you get frustrated. Obviously, we can’t afford to get frustrated against them. If we’re not having success we’ve just got to keep building the momentum and pressure until we do.”

Canny Eddie

Hansen, who spoke earlier in the week of his respect for Jones’s coaching credentials, said that he wouldn’t put it past his rival to spring a selection surprise for the semi-final. 

“We’ve got to plan for the chance they could bring back George Ford [at fly-half] and we have to plan for the fact they may not,” said the Kiwi. 

“This time of the week you’ve done your hard work. Who plays at 10 doesn’t really matter. They have a blueprint, as do we. What’s then important is fine-tuning your focus.” 

Pressure

Asked if he and his squad were feeling the pressure ahead of Saturday’s match, Hansen replied: “Yes, we feel it. We’re playing in the semi-final. It’s about how we handle it. You crack it, you’ll be fine. You don’t - you could miss the opportunities that are there.”

History is on the side of New Zealand with the All Blacks victorious in their three previous World Cup encounters - 1991, 1995 and 1999 - as well as the recent matches between the two sides. 

But Hansen dismissed such stats as irrelevant. 

“History is history and it’s about creating new history,” he said. “That game might define either team but it will give one a chance to go through to the final. There’s a lot of respect there.”

Hansen also confirmed he “100%” expects captain Kieran Read to play on Saturday after reports the No.8 was struggling with a calf injury.

Referee Jaco Peyper was pictured with Wales fans after the match against France

Fabien Heuzé/Twitter

Peyper punished

Jaco Peyper’s ill-judged photo opportunity with a group of Welsh fans has cost him a chance of officiating the England vs. New Zealand semi-final. 

A statement from World Rugby said that Welsh whistle-blower Nigel Owens will referee the game with Romain Poite and Pascal Gaüzère of France as assistant referees and Marius Jonker (South Africa) as TMO. 

World Rugby said: “The match officials selection committee did not consider Jaco Peyper for selection this weekend [and] Peyper recognises that a picture of him with Wales fans, which appeared on social media after the Wales versus France quarter-final, was inappropriate and he has apologised.”

Sunday’s semi-final between Wales and South Africa will be refereed by Jérôme Garcès of France with Wayne Barnes (England) and Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) as assistant referees and Ben Skeen (New Zealand) as TMO.

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