World Cup final pits 'the two most powerful teams in the world' against each other

England defence coach John Mitchell is expecting a very different challenge this weekend.

STRAP YOURSELVES IN, folks, because Saturday’s World Cup final could be seismic in its physicality.

The Springboks have always prided themselves on outmuscling their opposition and Rassie Erasmus has picked six forwards on his bench for both knock-out games so far with that very reason in mind.

The starting pack have ground Japan and Wales down before Erasmus has sprung what the Boks call their “bomb squad” to add another level of brutal energy.

new-zealand-v-south-africa-pool-b-2019-rugby-world-cup-international-stadium-yokohama RG Snyman has made an impact off the bench for the Boks. Adam Davy Adam Davy

Seeing the grinning RG Snyman, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, and Francois Louw hulking off the bench was not fun for the Japanese or Welsh.

England, meanwhile, have assembled a team of frightening physical ability. Maro Itoje realised his full potential in stunning fashion against the All Blacks last weekend, while Mako and Billy Vunipola are relentlessly impactful, flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill hit as hard as anyone, and Manu Tuilagi is always difficult to handle.

England showed that there is much more to their game than raw power as they dominated the All Blacks, but Saturday’s decider promises to be a meeting of two teams capable of producing huge amounts of physical force.

“What we are going to witness are the two most powerful rugby teams in the world,” is how England defence coach John Mitchell put it today in Tokyo.

“They are strong, well-coached, and the gainline is going to be huge. It’s a testament to both sides. Going back to our DNA, we feel it’s really important to us. We feel there is more to bring out and we are still going to have to work hard for each other.”

Mitchell’s defence did a superb job against the All Blacks, putting doubt in Kiwi minds and producing dominant moments like Underhill’s hits on Kieran Read and Jordie Barrett.

But Mitchell stresses that a very different challenge awaits against Erasmus’ side in Yokohama on Saturday. 

The New Zealander joined England from the Blue Bulls in South Africa, meaning he knows some of these Boks players very well.

england-v-new-zealand-2019-rugby-world-cup-semi-final-international-stadium-yokohama Maro Itoje was monstrous against the All Blacks. David Davies David Davies

“They play in a particular way, but we must always be prepared for anything that comes to us. They have a very clever nine [Faf de Klerk] who is sharp. Polly [out-half Handré Pollard] is in really, really good form.

“They have four second-rowers who love winning the gain line. They have their own armoury, it’s exciting. Last week, we dealt with a lot of speed, a lot of footwork. This week they are certainly going to be a team that is more direct.

“Pressure is definitely going to come, that asks questions of your fundamentals, so that comes down to the core basics that are really important to us – supporting your mate on the floor and in the carry,  is really critical with the pressure likely to come in the air and on the floor.”

Mitchell is wary too of the return of a “fabulous player” in Boks wing Cheslin Kolbe but he added that England can’t change too much based on one player.

Happily for the English, Mitchell reported that they expect Jonny May, Owen Farrell and Kyle Sinckler to be fit for the weekend after knocks against the All Blacks in the semi-final.

“I can’t see any of them being doubts at this point,” said the defence specialist.

All is set for a titanic meeting in this World Cup final.

“We’re really excited by the week,” said Mitchell. “In reality, all we have done is present ourselves with another opportunity at the right end of the tournament. We want to get better and we feel we can get better as well.”

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