As England prepare to challenge South Africa for their second-ever Rugby World Cup crown in Yokohama on Saturday, their unblemished run to the tournament’s final has provided a source of inspiration for two unlikely candidates.
Eddie Jones’ side are yet to drop a match in Japan after having blitzed through the pool stages, brushing aside Australia in the quarter-finals and overwhelming reigning champions New Zealand in the semi-finals last week.
Their compelling 19-7 victory over the All Blacks, in particular, has struck a chord within the rugby fraternity, with some labelling the win as the best performance by an English side at a World Cup, such was their dominance against the previous title favourites.
Subsequently, England head into the final against the Springboks as firm favourites, but their awe-inspiring form hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of football’s biggest names in the Premier League.
Manchester City’s manager Pep Guardiola and Chelsea boss Frank Lampard have both spoken of England’s success in the days leading up to the World Cup final, with both coaches believing they can learn plenty from their cross-code rivals.
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Guardiola – considered one of football’s greatest managers after leading City, Bayern Munich and Barcelona to a plethora of domestic and European club titles – has previously spent time with Jones when he observed a training session during the Spaniard’s time with German giants Bayern three years ago.
Jones has openly spoken in the past about how the City manager has been a major influence on his coaching methods during England’s run to the World Cup final.
Speaking to reporters on Friday ahead of his side’s league clash with Southampton this weekend, Guardiola reserved plenty of praise for the Australian-born 59-year-old, and extended an invitation to Manchester City for both him and the entire England squad upon their return from Japan.
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“We spoke once or twice and Eddie was so kind. It was a pleasure to see him and meet him,” Guardiola said.
“We talked about some movements in rugby. I’m a big fan and I watch on TV but I don’t understand too much about the sport.
“We can learn a lot from them. We didn’t spend too much time together but hopefully they can win the final and we can invite him and his staff to come here and talk more.
“It would be nice for all of us, and especially for me. So we wish them good luck.”
Guardiola was especially impressed with the physical demands that rugby players have to withstand, and was eager to learn from Jones the recovery processes his players go through.
“I will ask him how they can regenerate the players like they do after the games,” he said.
“How can they survive? It’s incredible, I cannot imagine.”
Lampard, meanwhile, shared similar sentiments regarding the class of the England squad.
The 41-year-old – who is in just his second season of football management after forging a highly-decorated playing career primarily with Chelsea and England, but also with the likes of West Ham, Manchester City and New York City – spoke of his admiration of the way in which rugby players and referees conduct themselves on the field.
He highlighted the composure shown by England captain Owen Farrell and the All Blacks towards referee Nigel Owens during their semi-final, and suggested it would be worthwhile to also meet with Jones’ squad following the World Cup.
“I think maybe yes (footballers could learn from rugby players),” the Chelsea head coach said to media ahead of his side’s meeting with Watford on Saturday.
“I think we should maybe have a sit-down with them because I was also thinking how well restrained – not restrained, there is no reason you should be restrained – but how well Owen Farrell and every player, the New Zealand players as well, reacted to the referee in the semi-final.
“And I think it is certainly something we could take on board – to take a deep breath sometimes more than we do. I think the respect in rugby seems to go both ways (between referees and players) – I think we could probably all learn.”
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