England head coach Eddie Jones has hit back at Warren Gatland after the New Zealand native claimed that England had peaked in the semi-final stage of the World Cup.
Following his side’s loss to South Africa on Sunday, Wales coach Gatland was asked his thoughts on England’s performance the previous day.
While he was very impressed with Jones’ outfit, the 56-year-old warned that some teams peak at the semi-final stage and fail to turn up for the decider.
“I thought England were outstanding last night. They have a very good chance. They might need to be a bit more expansive.
“For them, it was about making the final. Sometimes teams play in semi-finals and don’t always turn up for a final so it will be interesting to see England next week”, he quipped.
The two coaches have often been embroiled in a war of words down through the years and true to form, Jones wasn’t slow in firing back when asked about Gatland’s comments on Monday.
“Just send my best wishes to Warren and make sure he enjoys the third and fourth play-off.”
Meanwhile, Ben Spencer has flown in as a replacement for Willi Heinz who has been ruled out of the World Cup final against the Springboks with a hamstring injury.
Jones admitted that Heinz was “in tears” at the news but delivered a positive injury update on Jonny May and captain Owen Farrell.
“It is tough for Willi. He’s been a great contributor and very well-liked member of the squad and was in tears in the dressing room. It’s tough for him.
“He has collected himself and knows he has another role to do for us and will fulfil it well this week.
“We are good and had a walk through this morning and had to tell Jonny (May) to slow down a bit. He is probably in better condition than he was last week at this stage. Immeasurably better.
“Owen (Farrell) is a bit sore but will be fine, and there are some bumps and bruises.”
The Australia native was quick to praise “cunning” coach Rassie Erasmus following South Africa’s display against Wales but he is also aware that their performance next Saturday is all that counts.
”The only thing we are really worried about is how the Springboks turn up on Saturday. They won a tough semi-final and when you are in the final of the World Cup you have done a lot of good things right.
“They are a massively aggressive forward pack and they played their stronger team in the second half as opposed to the first half.
“They are going to be a difficult side to beat but we will enjoy the preparations. We know a couple of areas where we think we can expose them and will make sure we are good in those areas.
“Rassie (Erasmus) is a cunning coach and has done a great job with the Springboks.
“We are prepared for the unexpected and they can play different ways. You saw Faf de Klerk doing 15-20 box kicks. Handre Pollard is an excellent kicker of the ball and he was smooth and had a nice touch on the ball.
“They can play differently but also know they can come through the front door. Not many Springbok teams you play don’t come through the front door so we will be ready at the front door and have enough cover for the back door if that happens.”
England fans are now preparing for the country’s first World Cup final since 2007 and given their performance against the All Blacks, many are hopeful that the side will once again lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
Jones is delighted that his players have given the country a lift.
“It’s great. You give the country something to cheer about. With Brexit at the moment they probably need something to cheer about.
“It is the job of the team to make the country happy. It is not as happy as it can be because there is still a game to go.
“We know the final comes with pressure but we are excited to have that and we feel that is an advantage we have got.”