By Mitch Phillips
NICE, France (Reuters) – England hooker Jamie George said on Saturday that the World Cup win over Argentina has not really changed the mindset going into Sunday’s game against Japan, just as the pre-tournament criticism was similarly of little note to the players.
“You know it’s funny. We were the worst team in the world two weeks ago, suddenly we’re the best team in the world,” George told journalists. “It’s quite funny how luck can change in two weeks.
“But we’re certainly not getting ahead of ourselves. We don’t believe all the hype around us, much like we didn’t believe all the criticism that was coming our way previously.
“It’s just for us about making sure that we make the most of every day. We’re very clear about what each training day looks like and what we need to get out of it.”
George lines up alongside two new props on Sunday, with Kyle Sinckler and Joe Marler starting instead of Dan Cole and Ellis Genge, and says that he is looking forward to another strong display from the pack after their impressive show against the Pumas, when they were without flanker Tom Curry for almost all the match.
“All good English teams need to be based around a solid and dominant set piece, and that’s been a major focus for us and we felt really good against Argentina,” he said.
“We want to make sure that we try to find dominance in that area.”
England are strong favourites on Sunday against a Japan side who have struggled to reproduce the form that took them to the quarter-finals on home soil four years ago and who were hammered 52-13 at Twickenham last November.
They do present a different technical challenge than the England players are used to, however, and lock Maro Itoje says the squad have been very focused in their preparation.
“We know they move the ball, we know they are a very clever team who come up with very clever plays,” he said. “However, the goal is to enforce the English style of rugby on this game. So we aim to defend well and to impose our physicality.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Hugh Lawson)