The biggest game of rugby in the last four years will take place in Tokyo on Saturday as England do battle with South Africa for the Webb Ellis Cup and the title of World Champions.
England will enter the final with an unbeaten record whilst South Africa suffered an opening round loss to New Zealand, whom England saw off with relative ease in their semi-final.
Whilst that might be all the indication you need to place your bets for Saturday’s grand finale, there’s plenty more to it to build a World Cup winning campaign.
You need a decent sprinkling of world class players, a well rounded squad and an unstoppable mindset.
In terms of talent, that’s something both sides involved in this final have in abundance.
The Springboks have a well rounded and dynamic team with a huge forward presence, which they showed with a dominant second-half performance in the quarter-finals against hosts Japan.
Captain Siya Kolisi has enjoyed a stellar season despite a short-absence through injury, and scrum-half Faf de Klerk has been unplayable in the English Premiership with Sale Sharks and instrumental in the Springboks progress thus far in Japan.
Ben Youngs acknowledged the importance of his opposite number post-semi-finals, saying, “”He is a busy guy and likes confrontation. I look forward to playing him now I have had a good few battles with Will Genia and Aaron Smith.”
The man who will line-up against the Springboks captain, Tom Curry, has been rather impressive for England and will be key, alongside Sam Underhill, in nullifying South Africa’s physical presence.
Prolific ex-Gloucester winger Jonny May will have to prove his fitness after leaving the win over New Zealand early with a dead leg, his inclusion could become key in the outcome of the game.
The difference at inside-centre could be pivotal, where Owen Farrell should line-up against Damian de Allende in the midfield.
Both twelves are pivotal to their sides attack, and when De Allende tends to break the gain-line South Africa gain a new attacking dimension.
Meanwhile Farrell’s decisive presence and near-metronomic boot often dictate the form of Eddie Jones‘ side.
In the coaching corner, both teams are in very capable hands.
Rassie Erasmus has done spectacularly well to resurrect South Africa over the last couple of seasons after what was a difficult period for the Springboks. He’s forged a side with a fearsome capability to dominate teams.
“I’ve always felt we have the potential in South Africa to be a force in world rugby, and we have always been.” Erasmus declared post semi-final.
His captain and blindside flanker Siya Kolisi commented on the effect he’s had on the side, “He has coached a lot of the guys from different (provincial) unions, so he knows us and has had to pull us together. We had to buy into his plan, and he has made it clear that the Springboks is the most important thing.
“In the past, we tried to build ourselves by our social media, and all those kinds of things. He just brought us back down to earth, and told us, ‘You have to play well first, and everything else will come’.
“It’s awesome to see it come together. It will mean a lot for us to go all the way as a team.”
The man tasked with outsmarting him certainly agrees, “Rassie (Erasmus) is a cunning coach and has done a great job with the Springboks.” Jones smirked earlier this week.
England’s Eddie Jones previously coached Australia between 2001 and 2005, taking the team to the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final. He was an assistant coach for South Africa when the Springboks won the 2007 Rugby World Cup, the final being against England, and from 2012 to 2015 he coached Japan, leading them in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and in their upset win over South Africa.
It’s safe to say he knows his way around the South African team and a World Cup final, if anyone could win this game on their own for England, it would be this man.
“We have had a day or two of recovery and started a little bit of preparation today but the players understand they haven’t done anything yet and the most important week is coming up and what I sense is the excitement about what the team can achieve this week.” said Jones.
“Owen (Farrell) is a bit sore but will be fine, and there are some bumps and bruises.” Jones said.
“We had a walk through this morning and had to tell Jonny (May) to slow down a bit. He is probably in better condition than he was last week at this stage. Immeasurably better.”
When questioned on the opposition, Jones typically kept his cards close to his chest, “It was a tough, exacting semi-final and that is what we expect at the World Cup and we are looking forward to playing South Africa.”
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