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Jones is playing it cool as he gears up for final

England 19 New Zealand 7

All smiles: Owen Farrell smirks as he watches New Zealand perform the Haka
All smiles: Owen Farrell smirks as he watches New Zealand perform the Haka
Battering ram: England ace Billy Vunipola charges through during the victory over the All Blacks
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

And so Owen Farrell's smirk is elevated to a status alongside David Campese's nonchalant warm-up of 1991.

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Challenges to the Haka are numerous over the years but it's only in victory that they become the stuff of lore.

As New Zealand began their traditional pre-game routine and England formed a flying V, focus in the stadium was naturally drawn to an indifferent Joe Marler wandering across the halfway line before being whistled back into his own territory by Nigel Owens.

The TV cameras, though, caught upon England's smiling captain with New Zealand's scrum-half Aaron Smith revealing in the mixed zone that there'd been a wink or two sent his way too.

While hindsight is a fine thing in this regard, the message was clear - this was no day for acknowledging All Black aura or mystique.

If ever there was a 19-7 hammering, this was it, Eddie Jones' side so masterful in every aspect of their performance that whatever happens back in Yokohama on Saturday it will likely go down as their best ever showing at this tournament.

For a game Jones said during the week had been his focus for the last two and a half years, a man never shy of a word could have been forgiven for enjoying his moment. Instead, merely the sound of silence.

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The former Australia and Japan coach is no scatter-gun, having used his media conferences during the week to deflect attention from his team with a few left-field utterances while the likes of Maro Itoje, Sam Underhill and Tom Currie said plenty.

"We have another week and we're looking forward to it," he said when asked to put his side's place in a World Cup final into perspective. "We're not historians. We're ready for a good week, that's all we have to be ready for.

"We will recover really well and worry about Tuesday and Wednesday. All that stuff you're talking about is for you guys, so enjoy it because you won't be getting anything from us."

Like their coach, many of the players filtering through the mixed zone afterwards acted as if it was the result and performance they'd expected all along, as if upending the supposed hierarchy was just another win.

"At the start of the week, Eddie wanted us to rewrite history. We have gone one step towards doing that but now we have another game next week," said Billy Vunipola. "It was a tough game today but we came out the right side of the ledger.

"We have been going alright. A lot of people were doubting us because of all the games that we lost to New Zealand. We got written off this week from the get-go. We just wanted to come out and put in a good performance. I felt that we did that."

Something of an understatement. This was dominance on a vast scale, in defence, the breakdown and the set-piece while their often overlooked attack should have delivered more than their 19 points.

Repeat this level in the final and there'll be no beating them. Surely then Eddie might have a little more to say.

Belfast Telegraph


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