Rugby World Cup 2019: England can win Japan tournament - John Mitchell

Ben Youngs stands on a paddleboard
England players went paddle boarding on Friday as a recovery session
2019 Rugby World Cup
Hosts: Japan Dates: 20 September to 2 November
Coverage: Full commentary on every game across BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, plus text updates on the BBC Sport website and app.

England's class of 2019 can emulate the heroes of 2003 and lift the World Cup, says defence coach John Mitchell.

England were knocked out at the group stage as hosts four years ago, having exited in the quarter-finals in New Zealand in 2011.

"We can win it, most definitely. That is the exciting thing," said Mitchell.

"We will have to stay focused and make sure we don't get distracted at any point. We'll need a little bit of luck and we'll need to stay healthy."

England begin their campaign against Tonga in Sapporo next Sunday (11:15 BST) and then meet the USA the following Thursday, before the stiffer tests of Argentina and France complete their group fixtures.

"Some players will have to step up. You see that in other World Cups historically - they ask questions of players who probably didn't expect they were going get as much playing time.," added Mitchell.

"But it's amazing what this tournament does in terms of bringing more out of players. You have to connect with your mates, you have to trust your mates, and do not fear making a mistake."

Should Eddie Jones' side top Group C they could meet Wales or Australia in the quarter-finals, both of whom beat them in the group stage in 2015.

However, hooker Jamie George is taking inspiration from the only Englishman to lift the World Cup.

"I saw a video the other day on social media of Martin Johnson after the 2003 final that people haven't really seen very much," George told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It was an incredibly humble interview. He was talking about all the back-room staff, the players who had got them to that place.

"I just thought to myself: 'What an incredible leader.' And then, what an incredible position to be in.

"It got the juices flowing. It gives you goose-bumps just thinking about it.

"We're finally in Japan and it's almost a little bit surreal. But you dream about these things; you dream about winning World Cups.

"There's a genuine belief in the squad that we can do it. We're also aware that it's going to take a lot for us to get there. I'm incredibly confident we're in a brilliant place.

"I don't think many countries in the world can say they've got the depth we have."

New Zealander Mitchell, who coached the All Blacks to the semi-finals in 2003 and helped get the United States through qualification for this tournament, believes his old charges will begin this time as favourites again.

"New Zealand are two-time world champions and they've had some recent form as well," he said.

"They'll like the conditions too because it will suit their style of football - they like to move it around, they're probably the best catch-pass team in the competition so I would give them a great chance.

"You've then got Ireland and Wales who have had really good success over the past few years. And I wouldn't discount the Springboks - they look very powerful."

New Zealand meet South Africa on Saturday (10:45) in arguably the biggest match of the opening weekend. The two nations have won five World Cups between them since the tournament's inception in 1987.

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