Courtney Lawes says New Zealand will know exactly who they are up against in the Rugby World Cup semi-final on Saturday after the England lock was mistakenly named as a politician by Brodie Retallick five years ago.

Retallick irked the England camp in 2014 when he replied "Michael Laws" after being asked if he could name any members of Stuart Lancaster's squad.

All Blacks lock Retallick was not impressed when he was reminded of that slip of the tongue this week as the world champions and England prepare to do battle in Yokohama for a place in the final.

England forward Lawes expects New Zealand to be more familiar with their opponents this weekend.

"If they don't know, then they will tomorrow, it's just one of those things mate!" Lawes said on Friday.

"We will just get on with it."

Lawes says Eddie Jones' men are relishing the challenge of trying to prevent the holders from becoming the first team to lift the Webb Ellis Cup three times in a row.

"We're excited," said Lawes. "None of us have played in a semi-final before, it's a challenge but we're very excited to get out there."

He added: "I like to take every game like it is, which is a rugby game, and go out there and enjoy.

"Obviously it's a massive occasion and we want to win, we have to win. But I like to go out there and treat every game like it's your last game."

South Africa stand in the way of Wales and a first Rugby World Cup final appearance when they do battle in Yokohama on Sunday.

Wales have twice suffered the agony of a semi-final defeat, losing to New Zealand in 1987 and France in 2011.

South Africa won both of their previous World Cup encounters with Wales and have looked ominous in Japan as they attempt to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time. 

We pick out some Key Opta facts ahead of the second semi-final as the Six Nations champions and Rugby Championship winners eye a showdown with England or the All Blacks.

 

5 - Wales have won five of their last six Tests against South Africa, coming out on top in the last four meetings.

3 - South Africa have conceded just three tries in five games during the tournament - two of which came in their defeat to New Zealand.

12 - Wales have conceded more tries (12) in the World Cup than their previous two campaigns combined (10).

30 - The Springboks have scored more tries (30) and points (211) than any other side in the tournament.

86 - Dan Biggar needs 14 points to become the first Wales player to score 100 World Cup points. Neil Jenkins leads the way with 98 and Stephen Jones notched 95.

32 - South Africa have won 32 of 34 World Cup games in which they have led at half-time.

England and New Zealand face off in a mouth-watering Rugby World Cup semi-final as Eddie Jones' men look to somehow topple the two-time defending champions. 

The All Blacks are aiming to become the first side to win three successive World Cups, but England represent a huge obstacle in their road to history.

For England to defy the odds and reach the final for the first time since 2007, they will need to end a New Zealand winning streak stretching back to that tournament 12 years ago.

Here we take a statistical look at Saturday's mammoth last-four clash in Yokohama.

15 - New Zealand have won 15 of their last 16 matches against England - the exception in that run being a 21-38 defeat at Twickenham in 2012, a game in which Manu Tuilagi and Kieran Read both scored tries.

4 - This will be the fourth Rugby World Cup clash between England and New Zealand. The All Blacks have won each of the previous three (1991, 1995, 1999), including their only knockout encounter which came in the semi-finals of the 1995 tournament in South Africa.

3 - England have won three of their previous four World Cup semi-final matches - the 29-45 loss to New Zealand in 1995 is the exception.

18 - New Zealand have won their past 18 World Cup matches, the longest such run in the tournament's history, last losing a game in the quarter-finals of the 2007 edition against France. Sam Whitelock has played in all 18 of those games and as such holds the individual record for most consecutive wins in World Cup history.

30 - The All Blacks have averaged the most points (51), tries (7.3), metres (642), clean breaks (22), defenders beaten (39) and offloads (17) of any side at the 2019 World Cup. They are also one of four sides yet to lose a scrum on their own feed (30/30).

- Neither England nor New Zealand have conceded a first half try in this tournament so far, the only sides to manage this; both have conceded three tries in the second half.

13 - Owen Farrell (87) needs 13 points to become the second player to reach 100 World Cup points for England after Jonny Wilkinson (277). He has managed that haul in four of his past five starts for England and averages 11.4 points per game in eight previous appearances against New Zealand (including with the British and Irish Lions).

1 - Jonny May needs one try to equal Jason Robinson on 28 tries for England, the joint fifth most for the country. It will be May's 51st match; Robinson won 51 caps for England.

- Maro Itoje has won more turnovers (seven) than any other player at the 2019 World Cup. Ardie Savea (five) is New Zealand's leading exponent in this facet of the game and has indeed won the joint most jackal turnovers of any player (five).

Warren Gatland had mixed news on the injury front as he named the Wales team for their Rugby World Cup semi-final, welcoming back Jonathan Davies but forced to do without Liam Williams.

Wales face South Africa in Yokohama on Sunday looking to reach the World Cup final for the first time.

Davies is back in Gatland's XV after missing the narrow last-eight victory over France with a recurrence of an earlier knee injury.

However, Williams is out of this clash and the remainder of the tournament due to a training-ground injury.

Wales reported Williams had suffered the blow to his ankle in an accidental collision and a prognosis was still to be established.

That blow sees Leigh Halfpenny come into the side at full-back, joining Josh Adams and George North in the back three.

Wales had already lost Josh Navidi to a torn hamstring against France, meaning Ross Moriarty's inclusion is the third and final change to the side.

Gatland's men will be led by Alun Wyn Jones, who is earning his 142nd Test cap - including nine for the British and Irish Lions.

He moves to joint-second on the all-time worldwide list, tied with Italy's Sergio Parisse behind former All Black Richie McCaw (148).

Gareth Davies gets his 50th cap.


Wales team: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones, Aaron Wainwright, Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Aaron Shingler, Tomos Williams, Rhys Patchell, Owen Watkin.

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has hailed Wales head coach Warren Gatland as a "legend" ahead of their Rugby World Cup semi-final showdown on Sunday.

Gatland masterminded a Grand Slam triumph in the final Six Nations campaign of his tenure this year and stands on the brink of leading Wales into a first World Cup final.

Erasmus hailed the New Zealander, who will end his long reign after the tournament in Japan, as he prepares to pit his wits against the wily British and Irish Lions coach in Yokohama this weekend.

"Warren is an absolute legend of the game. You very seldom see him in a mouth fight and mudslinging before Test matches," said Erasmus.

"I've never been there having to reply to something he says, and he doesn't bite at you to create unnecessary nonsense before a Test match, so I've got a lot of respect for him as a person.

"His results on the field speak for themselves, with the Welsh team and the British and Irish Lions."

Erasmus made one enforced change to his side following an emphatic win over Japan, Sbu Nkosi replacing Cheslin Kolbe (ankle).

Gatland will be hoping Jonathan Davies is available to return after missing the quarter-final win over France with a knee injury, but Erasmus says they have enough quality to cope without the centre.

"They've almost got a southern hemisphere backline in terms of size." Erasmus said of the Six Nations champions.

"I know [Dan] Biggar is maybe not as big as other guys, but definitely busy. Hadleigh Parkes is a big guy, Davies is a physical guy. I think he was backline player of the tour in New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions.

"You've got [George] North, who is a big boy, and Liam Williams, who was always outstanding and physical. So, if they lose him [Davies], they will definitely lose a guy who is intimidating, who's got soft skills, experience.

"But then again, they've still got Liam there, Biggar, good guys off the bench, still got [Leigh] Halfpenny there.

"They've got a great pack of forwards, but their backline is a big threat. If they do lose him, they will lose somebody like we've lost Cheslin, but hell, they've got some great other players as well."

Faf de Klerk has put the boot in on his social media critics as South Africa prepare to try and kick Wales out of the Rugby World Cup on Sunday. 

Scrum-half De Klerk was named man of the match after his starring role in the 26-3 quarter-final victory over tournament hosts Japan. 

That did not stop some Springboks supporters from calling on the playmaker to cut down on putting up the high balls ahead of a last-four showdown with the reigning Six Nations champions. 

De Klerk defended South Africa's tactics, however, pointing out they were effective in putting their opponents on the back foot. 

"We do kick a lot, but we try to read the game and the momentum. So, if you look at last weekend, we did kick a lot in the air, and Japan managed to contain our aerial battle," De Klerk said. 

"But if you look further than that, we managed to get so much territorial gain on them with our defence, with the guys being loaded on that. 

"It was a very positive outcome when we kicked. We did give them possession, but they rarely managed to do anything with it." 

On facing Wales, he added: "It is going to be a different challenge this week. I don't think we are going to have the same threats as that [Japan provided].

"It's all about seeing the space, and I feel our wings have come so far over the last two years. They are really competing well in the air.

"They [Wales] have got very good wingers, so it is going to be a massive battle in the air. We don't always go out with a set plan of me just going up and kicking.

"We do read the game, and I listen a lot to what Handre [Pollard] is telling me."

John Mitchell wished New Zealand good luck if they want to spy on England ahead of the Rugby World Cup semi-final but says it would not give them an advantage.

England head coach Eddie Jones claimed someone was spotted filming England's training session on Tuesday.

Jones said it may have been a Japanese fan seen in an apartment overlooking the pitch, but admitted he used to spy on opponents.

Defence coach Mitchell does not believe the All Blacks would gain anything from seeing how England were preparing for a titanic battle in Yokohama City on Saturday.

"If that is what they want to do, and that is the way they want to prepare, good luck to them," the New Zealander said.

He added: "We just happened to be training where there are apartments above our tiny two-metre fence, so I am not sure about what the use of the tarpaulins are.

"The facilities have been excellent but it's an area where people live and there is the odd red light around. There was one up in the corner, which was a bit suspicious.

"It doesn't really worry me. This game is so dynamic now so I don't see any advantage in spying on a team."

Mitchell revealed spying is not uncommon at the highest level of rugby.

"When I took over the All Blacks in 2001 we had a manager who was highly military and he loved surveying the whole area," he said.

"To me, you can get too involved in it and create an anxiety in your group. There is enough pressure at this level without chasing around some blokes that might be in a building with a camera.

"I was with Sir Clive Woodward when we were going for a Grand Slam against Scotland and we chased somebody from one of the papers around the corner and caught him in a hedge.

"He was pretty unlucky actually but that was when the game was a lot different to what it is now. I've seen coaches spy, I've had other coaches spy. I've had mates spy as well, but I don't see any advantage."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.