by sport reporter
Tokyo — Eddie Jones has responded in typically sharp fashion after Wales coach Warren Gatland questioned whether England had played their World Cup final a week early with a stunning victory over champions New Zealand.
Gatland was speaking after Wales had been edged out 19-16 in the second semi-final by South Africa, who will now face England in Yokohama on Saturday in a repeat of the 2007 final.
The Welsh play the All Blacks in the bronze final 24 hours earlier, with Gatland’s last match after 12 years in charge coming against his native New Zealand.
“Well, guys, can you just send my best wishes to Warren to make sure he enjoys the third and fourth place playoff,” England coach Jones told reporters when Gatland’s comments were put to him on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Australian, in charge of the Wallabies side that lost to England in the 2003 World Cup final, delivered a boost to Red Rose hopes of a second global crown by declaring Jonny May had recovered well from the dead leg the wing suffered in a superb 19-7 semi-final win over New Zealand.
The Leicester flyer had been a doubt coming into the All Blacks match because of a hamstring injury and played 45 minutes before leaving the field with a fresh fitness problem.
But a smiling Jones insisted on Monday: “We had a walk-through this morning and we had to tell Jonny to slow down a bit.
“He’s probably in better condition than he was last week at this stage.”
England captain Owen Farrell also suffered a dead leg during an impressive win but finished the game, albeit his injury saw George Ford took over the goal-kicking duties.
“Owen’s a bit sore, but he’ll be fine,” said Jones. “We’ve got a few others carrying bumps and bruises because it was a tough old game.”
Meanwhile, Jones said England could continue to lift the mood of the nation by taking attention away from Brexit with a win over the Springboks.
“It’s great — you give the country something to cheer about and with Brexit at the moment they probably need something to cheer about,” Jones said.
“It’s the job of a team to make the country happy and we’ve made the country happy. Not as happy as they can be because there is still a game to go as we’ve said.”
Meanwhile Jones paid tribute to Willi Heinz after the back-up scrumhalf saw his dreams of playing in a World Cup final crushed by a tournament-ending hamstring injury suffered against New Zealand.
Jones picked just two specialist scrumhalves in his 31-man squad for Japan.