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Owen Farrell believes England have learned the ability to adapt within a match that has proven to be their biggest hurdle during the Eddie Jones era, with Saturday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final with New Zealand the perfect platform to put that claim to the ultimate test.
England’s progress under Jones has been stunted by costly defeats against Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and Wales over the last two years, leading to a question mark hanging over their big-game mentality.
Farrell returns to inside centre for the Yokohama clash with the All Blacks to accommodate the returning George Ford, but the biggest test for the pair will come in working out how to unlock the defence of the best side in world rugby over the last eight years.
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Both teams arrive at the semi-final stage as the unbeaten stand-outs at the World Cup so far, but England do so knowing that they have not emerged victorious in this match for seven years, having lost six of the last seven encounters.
England also face a serious test of their mentality when the pressure is on, and having passed the first hurdle against Australia last weekend in romping away from a one-point advantage to a 40-16 victory, they in all likelihood will have to delve deep into that character once again.
For Farrell, it has also been a personal journey that has continued into this World Cup, having been talked into putting his preparation first by Jones in front of what the team needs.
And asked whether he used to allow the week’s build-up to mount on top of him and cloud his judgement, the England captain said: “When I was younger definitely. That comes with a bit of experience and learning about yourself.
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