Kevin Sinfield has stressed the importance of studying England’s southern hemisphere counterparts, with New Zealand hosting South Africa in a blockbuster clash on Saturday, but the defence coach insists he does not care who his side face at the World Cup.
England are widely considered to be on the easier side of the draw, in the opposite half to France, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa – the top four sides in the world – and would avoid those teams until the semi-finals. Last weekend’s opening matches of the Rugby Championship only highlighted the disparity, with New Zealand thumping Argentina, who are in England’s pool, and South Africa thrashing Eddie Jones’s Australia – potential quarter-final opponents for Steve Borthwick’s side.
On Saturday the All Blacks host the Springboks and Australia’s match against Argentina is very much the undercard to the main event in Auckland, despite it being Jones’s homecoming. Sinfield said England’s coaches had watched last weekend’s Rugby Championship matches – as well as a fixture between a Japan XV and an All Blacks XV in Tokyo last Saturday.
But asked about England’s luck with the draw, he said: “Honestly, I’m not bothered at all who we play or what the draw is. We’ll get the best out of this team. Whoever we have to face, we have to face, whenever that is. This management team and our players have had nothing to do with the draw. We can only do what we can do and we spend all our time trying to make us better each day. What will be will be.
“You would expect us to be studying. We all watch the games, they were two fantastic games and I would also add that the Japan game against the All Blacks XV was a game we looked at. At the forefront of our minds at the minute are the players we have got here and trying to ensure we prepare them as best we can so they are ready to go. But also whilst there is an opportunity – there are some good international games taking place with some fantastic players, with some teams that we could face at some stage – it is important to have a look at them.”
South Africa’s 43-12 victory over Australia was all the more impressive because the Springboks were without a host of senior players who were absent with an eye on the New Zealand fixture. “They’ve got unbelievable depth,” added Sinfield. “But ultimately it will be 15 v 15, won’t it? They can’t bring any more on if we get to play against them. That’s a long way down the track
“I thought the games were really entertaining at the weekend. We learned some bits. I think they’ve got very good depth, South Africa, and it will be a good game this weekend.”