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Eddie Jones expects New Zealand to spring a surprise on England in this Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final, but believes his players’ experience in facing the All Blacks over the last two years leaves them perfectly prepared to spring a surprise.
The 59-year-old on Thursday named his side that will attempt to see England through to a World Cup final for the first time in 12 years with George Ford restored to fly-half at the expense of Henry Slade in the only change to the starting XV.
If they are to achieve their goal, England must become the first team to defeat the All Blacks at a World Cup since 2007 as the All Blacks have developed a habit of peaking at the right time with a style that has transitioned many times over the years. That has included Steve Hansen’s side keeping something up their sleeve, which Jones fully expects them to have tucked away this weekend.
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But Jones is also adamant that last November’s narrow defeat by the All Blacks and the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour – which 13 of his players experience – fills them with the knowledge needed to knock off the reigning world champions.
“New Zealand have always show a propensity to change the order of the way they play and it will be up to our team to understand that clearly at the start of the game,” Jones said. “They always have some sort of surprise first-phase attack. If you look back to 2011 World Cup, they scored that try through the middle of the lineout. All we can do is be creative in training, think about different situations and teach the players to handle it. One thing about playing New Zealand is that you have to be alive all the time, they are always in the game, always looking for opportunities – but our players are equipped for that and ready to go.
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