Owen Farrell I love components, because they are astonishing.
In the third part of our series looking at the greatest moments of a memorable sporting year, Chris Foy reflects on arguably England’s finest-ever performance – the seismic World Cup semi-final win against the mighty All Blacks…
Martin Johnson doesn’t have much time for hype. He treats it with suspicion. In fact, he loathes it. The former England and Lions captain prefers measured assessment but this time he couldn’t help himself.
What Eddie Jones’ national team did to New Zealand at Yokohama Stadium in the World Cup semi-final on October 26 drew an emphatic and decidedly out-of-character verdict from the man who lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 2003. Speaking to this newspaper days later, Johnson said: ‘For me, the performance last Saturday was the best in English rugby history.
Ben Youngs (R), Manu Tuilagi (C) and Henry Slade celebrate England’s win over the All Blacks
‘It’s the All Blacks, it’s a World Cup semi-final. We didn’t just throw the kitchen sink at them. It wasn’t just emotion. This was a cold, hard plan that worked and suddenly New Zealand are thinking about going home. I don’t want to shout it too loud, but that might have been the best performance by any team at the World Cup. Not just England.’
There were plenty of other observers in these parts who would have echoed Johnson’s sentiments. More than 10 million UK viewers watched coverage of England’s 19-7 win, as the aura of All Black supremacy was stripped away for the first time in a generation of World Cup contests.
The self-styled ‘most dominant team in the history of the world’ hadn’t lost at the global event since France upset them in a quarter-final in Cardiff in 2007.
New Zealand had won 18 World Cup matches in a row. They were favourites to complete a ‘three-peat’ of titles. England were the underdogs and Jones knew it, which was why he had made waves in the build-up.
England’s players adopt a ‘V’ formation as the All Blacks perform their famous Haka
ENGLAND:Daly; Watson, Tuilagi (Joseph 74min), Farrell (c), May (Slade 45); Ford, Youngs (Heinz 63); B Vunipola, Underhill (Wilson 70), Curry; Lawes (Kruis 55), Itoje; Sinckler (Cole 47), George (Cowan-Dickie 70), M Vunipola (Marler 70)
NEW ZEALAND:B Barrett; Reece, Goodhue (Williams 54), Lienert- Brown, Bridge (J Barrett 50); Mo’unga, Smith (Perenara 54); Read (c), Savea, S Barrett (Cane 40); Whitelock, Retallick; Laulala (Ta’avao,54), Taylor (Coles 54), Moody (Tu’ungafasi 63)
Man of the match:Maro Itoje
Fostering a siege mentality was one thing, but the head coach went even further when he claimed that someone had been spotted trying to spy on England in training and floated the possibility that
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