Defence coach Sinfield, Chessum (ENG): 'I'm not bothered if people are writing us off'

Defence coach Sinfield, Chessum (ENG): 'I'm not bothered if people are writing us off'

Comments from England defence coach Kevin Sinfield and second-row Ollie Chessum at a media briefing as they prepare to face South Africa in the second semi-final at Stade de France on Saturday, 21 October.

Kevin Sinfield, defence coach

On Marcus Smith's fitness:

"Yeah he is good. We will get a clearer read in the week but fingers crossed he will be good to go."

On South Africa and their physicality:

"We are really excited by it. They are a top team aren't they. We saw the game on Saturday evening and were in awe of the physicality that they brought. It was a great showcase for what rugby is about. We knew whoever we met at this point would be a tough challenge especially with the draw, it was going to be the hosts or the current holders. We have the utmost respect for them. We think they are a nation that play the best rugby, play some great rugby. They know what they are about and they don't shy away from it. We look forward to the test this weekend."

On the 2019 final against South Africa and if the players can use that as motivation:

"I think it is probably down to the individual. I think some will use it and I think some won't be bothered at all because a lot has changed in four years. I know they have a lot of continuity in their coaching team and a lot of their players but we're in 2023 now. We're in France, in Paris, and we look forward to this weekend."

On what he would say to people writing England off:

"I'm not too bothered. It doesn't matter to me. Our focus is trying to support, help and influence our players to be the best they can be at the weekend. Stuff outside in August [during their warm-up tests] we took on the chin and I think in the five or six weeks we have been together we have made huge improvements. We know we need to be improved again for the weekend to try and get the job done."

On a siege mentality:

"I think it is an individual. I think some guys will [use the fact England are being written off] but I think others will want to win because they want to win, they are winners."

On having to change their relationship with referees:

“We’ll leave that to the referee. We have full respect for whoever takes charge. It’s a big game and I don’t think we’d ever criticise the referee during this campaign.

“We understand what a tough job it is. We are a disciplined team at the minute and it’s something we talk about a lot. We certainly need to be disciplined in a whole host of ways.”

On Ben Earl:

“He has been one of the standout players across the tournament. If you named a World XV at this time he would be close to getting in it. The minutes he has played for us, the ground he has covered, he has done a great job for us.

“That’s on both sides of the ball too. He has worked incredibly hard for the past 19 weeks. We know that he has faced adversity before with England but he has certainly gone after it and he deserves everything that he gets.”

On England’s having best tackle success rate in the quarter-finals of 86 per cent:

“I didn’t know that stat. I’d like it to be higher. I want us to keep improving. If we are going to be anywhere near South Africa at the weekend that number needs to be massively increased.

“The last couple of weeks we have faced two teams that wanted to throw the ball about. We knew Fiji would have a purple patch where they caused us problems and we were prepared for a spell where we’d be under the cosh.

“Although it got very tense in those last few minutes it was probably another challenge for this group to have to face. To have a big lead, to then have it chopped down and find a way to win.

“We are coming up against a team that has got the best defence in the world at the minute in South Africa. They’ve been together for a long time, they are really well drilled. It’s an aggressive defence and we look forward to facing them this weekend.”

On the attacking threat of South Africa as well as defensive abilities:

“They have added to their game. When you look at their line-up and see such stars. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a couple of them back at Leicester.

“You look across that back line and they can hurt you in a whole host of ways. They are a running threat, they are a kicking threat, they have got an incredible set-piece, they have got an unbelievable defence. Do you want me to keep going?

“We know what we are up against this week but we are excited by the challenge.”

On threat of South Africa wing Cheslin Kolbe:

“The back three, whoever they pick, have got some real gas and pace. For us, this week, it’s about getting the balance right between understanding what South Africa do, how they play, but also about our strengths as well.

“It would be quite easy for us to be completely blown away by how good they are. There will be some individuals we will prepare for. I won’t be sharing who, but they are a very well-drilled outfit and if we spend a load of time focusing in on one player then someone else would burn us.

“We understand that they are a very good unit and we need to be at our very best.”

Ollie Chessum, second-row

On the challenge of facing South Africa:

"It's massively exciting. I think these are the games you want to be a part of, against the biggest teams on the biggest stage in the biggest competition. They have some unbelievable players in their pack. They bring an exceptional amount of physicality."

On whether the 2019 final has been mentioned:

"Not much really, certainly not for me anyway  I wasn’t here in 2019 so it doesn’t motivate me. We have got a new group of players now who are quite happy to leave that in the past and focus on what we can do as this new England group."

On England making another improvement:

“We are looking for another step. That’s been the nature of the competition. Week by week we have grown as a group and got better in various aspects of our game.

“South Africa are unbelievable across the board and we have got to be the same, if not better. It’s important that we bring the physicality but also the level of execution at the end.”

On playing in a Rugby World Cup semi-final after his injury issues:

“As a player this is exactly where you want to be, representing your country in the biggest competition that there is in this game, against a top, top side on the biggest stage. I’ve played at the Stade de France before and I know what an incredible stadium and incredible atmosphere it brings. I’m really looking forward to the weekend.”

On Ben Earl:

“It’s definitely better playing with him than against him. He has been fantastic for us. In moments when you need someone to pull something out of the hat Ben has been that person for us so far in this tournament.

“We look to him to bring that powerful, dynamic aspect of his game and it’s worked for us. He’s been fantastic.”

On if England can remain as only unbeaten team in tournament:

“We have got to stay unbeaten from now on if we want to win the World Cup. 

“It’s not something we’ve talked about too much, but we’ve improved week-by-week, taken each team and each week as it’s come.

“That’s not changed this week. We know the opposition we have to face. We think we know what we have got to do to win this game by taking it to them.

“We know they are going to be unbelievable. We are proud of the fact that we’ve gone unbeaten, but it means nothing if we don’t go and do the job this weekend.”

On playing with Manu Tuilagi:

“I did not come across Manu at Leicester, he had just left as I arrived. I’ve met him as I’ve come into (England) camp. He is an unbelievable player and an unbelievable person off the field. 

“I haven’t got a bad word to say about him and I’m just glad I’m playing in the same team rather than against him as he’s a pretty dangerous threat.”

Latest News