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Eddie Jones' England have qualities to secure World Cup against Boks

Rassie Erasmus’ South Africans will back themselves to match the English power in Yokohama.

Updated Nov 2nd 2019, 12:57 AM

BREAKFAST IN TOKYO on the morning before the Rugby World Cup final.

First, the daughter of the late and great Danie Craven – known as Mr. Rugby in South Africa – engages us in conversation.

80-year-old Joan Roux has been trekking around Japan with Pieter-Steph du Toit’s family, her age not preventing her from getting stuck in, even if she was the unfortunate and rare victim of theft on the bustling, madcap Takeshita Street in the Harajuku area of Tokyo.

england-v-new-zealand-2019-rugby-world-cup-semi-final-international-stadium-yokohama The World Cup final will take place in Yokohama. Source: Adam Davy

Her father – also affectionately nicknamed Doc – had doctorates in physical education, psychology, and ethnology, as well as being a legendary Springboks player and coach who was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 1997, having passed away three years previously.

Joan is clearly a deeply-intelligent person too and she reckons the Springboks might just have enough grit and physicality to edge past England in today’s World Cup decider at International Stadium Yokohama [KO 9am Irish time, eir Sport/RTÉ].

After Joan departs, we can’t help but notice a small group of giddy and optimistic English voices across the room that turn out to belong to the parents of Maro Itoje and Anthony Watson. 

They politely express their disappointment about Ireland’s World Cup performances but all of the focus is naturally on their boys – men to the rest of us – getting the job done today in Yokohama. 

Their pride and excitement and nervousness is a timely reminder that there is much more that goes into Test rugby than the actions we see on the pitch on game day. The players doing battle in this World Cup decider represent family, friends, and their nations.

The scene at breakfast is also a reminder of just how brilliant this World Cup in Japan has been. Even on this Friday in Tokyo, the streets have been busy with people wearing Boks, England, Wales, New Zealand and, still, even some Ireland jerseys.

Typhoon Hagibis was a genuine stumbling block that caused a handful of games to be cancelled – favouring the sides who had a weekend off before quarter-finals – but the devastation caused away from the World Cup put that disappointment in perspective.

The tournament has bounced back wonderfully and the knock-out stages have largely been superb, with sensational performances from New Zealand against Ireland and then England against the All Blacks in the past two weekends standing out. 

henry-slade-jonathan-joseph-kyle-sinckler-and-dan-cole-celebrate-after-the-game England impressed in their semi-final win over the All Blacks. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It was always going to be difficult for the Boks’ semi-final clash with Wales to come close to living up to England’s stunning showing the night before – it never, ever threatened to – but there was something impressive about how Rassie Erasmus’ team ground their way to victory for the second knock-out game in a row.

That template won’t be changing for this final, particularly given how oppressively England defended the Kiwis’ attempts to play to width in the semi-final. Faf de Klerk will box-kick, Handré Pollard will take his shots at goal, Siya Kolisi and his pack will look for scrum and maul penalties, and Damian de Allende will run hard.

The returning Cheslin Kolbe should add line-breaking ability and Willie le Roux has playmaking qualities, but the Boks won’t be deviating from the script that has led them into this final after an impressive turnaround under Erasmus in less than two years.

Irishman Felix Jones being part of the South African’s backroom staff will have won them a few extra fans for today, although England have done the same with their sweeping win over the All Blacks. Many Irish people are shocked to find themselves liking this England team – Eddie Jones, Owen Farrell, and all.

Jones has been a picture of calm focus all week, as has captain Farrell. The Saracens man will be at inside centre as George Ford occupies the number 10 shirt, and will once again lead by resilient, ceaselessly hard-working example.

The Boks will feel they can match the jaw-dropping power of the likes of the Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako, Itoje, Manu Tuilagi, the ‘Kamikaze Kids’ – Sam Underhill and Tom Curry – and the hard-hitting Courtney Lawes, but this English pack is capable of playing too, often in the shape of the multi-skilled tighthead Kyle Sinckler and touchline-hugging hooker Jamie George.

Watson is a bundle of pinball-like energy on the right wing, Elliot Daly has been classy with his left-footed kicking and evasive running from fullback, and Jonny May is a lethal finisher on the left.

With Ben Youngs’ excellent box-kicking combining with the tactical nous of Ford and Farrell, England will back themselves to manage the game cleverly, although one has to hope the Ford-Farrell combination can show its passing quality too.

siya-kolisi-and-duane-vermeulen-celebrate-after-the-game Siya Kolisi and his Boks have garnered huge support. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Defence coaches John Mitchell and Jacques Nienaber will certainly have been central figures in both camps this week and it would be a surprise if we end up with a free-scoring contest on our hands.

Instead, the expectation is of a tense, taught and brutally contact-heavy contest where the set-piece is even more pivotal than ever. The battle between England’s finishers and the Boks’ bomb squad off the respective benches will be fascinating too.

But if Jones and his savvy attack coach, Scott Wisemantel, have as smart a plan as they did last week against the All Blacks and their England players can get close to that performance again, it’s likely to be Farrell who lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy to cap this wonderful World Cup.

England:

15. Elliot Daly
14. Anthony Watson
13. Manu Tuilagi
12. Owen Farrell (captain)
11. Jonny May
10. George Ford
9. Ben Youngs 

1. Mako Vunipola
2. Jamie George
3. Kyle Sinckler 
4. Maro Itoje
5. Courtney Lawes 
6. Tom Curry 
7. Sam Underhill
8. Billy Vunipola

Replacements:

16. Luke Cowan-Dickie
17. Joe Marler 
18. Dan Cole 
19. George Kruis
20. Mark Wilson
21. Ben Spencer 
22. Henry Slade 
23. Jonathan Joseph

South Africa:

15. Willie le Roux
14. Cheslin Kolbe
13. Lukhanyo Am
12. Damian de Allende
11. Makazole Mapimpi
10. Handré Pollard
9. Faf de Klerk

1. Tendai Mtawarira
2. Bongi Mbonambi
3. Frans Malherbe
4. Eben Etzebeth
5. Lood de Jager
6. Siya Kolisi (captain)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit
8. Duane Vermeulen

Replacements:

16. Malcolm Marx
17. Steven Kitshoff
18. Vincent Koch
19. RG Snyman
20. Franco Mostert
21. Francois Louw
22. Herschel Jantjies
23. Francois Steyn

Referee: Jérôme Garcès [France].

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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