Rugby World Cup Final: The Preview

2003 Champions England will come up against 1995 and 2007 Champions South Africa this Saturday in the heavily anticipated 2019 Rugby World Cup Final. Eddie Jones’ men will be looking to cement their place in the higher echelon of the sport whilst Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks are looking to reclaim their best form to hold aloft the Web Ellis Cup once more.

 

The Teams

Both England and South Africa have released their matchday 23’s for this Saturday’s final and there are certainly some interesting picks.

Firstly, Eddie Jones has selected an almost unchanged 23 from that which beat the reigning champions New Zealand in the semi-final last weekend. Ben Spencer coming on to the bench for the injured Willie Heinz is the only change Jones has decided to make.

The head coach puts his full faith in the starting 15 which made a dominant start against the All Blacks – scoring a try within a minute and a half.

Flankers Tom Curry and Sam Underhill will more than likely be as destructive and dynamic a pairing as ever. The pair will make history in the fixture as they will become the youngest flankers ever to start in a Rugby World Cup final – the two young breakout stars will have an average age of 22 years and 121 days.

South Africa aren’t void of history makers either, however, as captain Siya Kolisi will play in his 50th test match for his country and Frans Steyn could look to become the second player to win two World Cup titles 12 years apart – in doing this, he would emulate fellow Springbok Os du Randt who won in both 1995 and 2007.

In other areas of Rassie Erasmus’ squad, winger Cheslin Kolbe returns from an ankle injury – which ruled him out of the side’s semi-final win against Wales – to take his place on the wing.

The Springboks place faith in Kolbe and the rest of their backline as the coaches have chosen to name a bench which includes six forward replacements.

England: E Daly; A Watson, M Tuilagi, O Farrell (c), J May; G Ford, B Youngs; M Vunipola, J George, K Sinckler, M Itoje, C Lawes, T Curry, S Underhill, B Vunipola. Subs: L Cowan-Dickie, J Marler, D Cole, G Kruis, M Wilson, B Spencer, H Slade, J Joseph.

South Africa: W Le Roux; C Kolbe, L Am, D De Allende, M Mapimpi; H Pollard, F De Klerk; T Mtawarira, B Mbonambi, F Malherbe, E Etzebeth, L De Jager, S Kolisi (c), P Du Toit, D Vermeulen. Subs: M Marx, S Kitschoff, V Koch, RG Snyman, F Mostert, F Louw, H Jantjies, F Steyn.

 

 

The Coaches

Both coaches are no strangers to the tense and trying environment of a Rugby World Cup final. Eddie Jones has coached Australia and South Africa to finals in 2003 and 2007 respectively – winning the 2007 edition of the tournament as the Springboks assistant coach. Whilst Rassie Erasmus played in the 1999 World Cup tournament for the Springboks and was a technical adviser for the 2007 winning side.

Erasmus will be looking to treasure this weekend’s experience however, as he announced on Thursday morning that following the tournament he will be stepping down as Springboks coach having taking the role in tandem with the South African director of rugby position since the beginning of 2018.

“We now have what may be an once-in-a-lifetime chance to become world champions,” Erasmus said midweek. “Something that would mean so much to our country and our people.”

“We know the excitement that there is back home and that the country will be coming to a standstill on Saturday. There is a huge weight of expectation. We may not be favourites but these players will leave nothing in the tank.”

In the England camp, Jones, whilst not taking the threat South Africa pose lightly, is confident in his side’s ability to put on a complete performance.

“South Africa are a difficult opponent and we are going to have to fight really hard to win. We will go and play with no fear.”

Jones continued, “South Africa will probably play a similar type of game they have played all tournament so we need to be good in the arm wrestle and when we have the opportunities to break the game up, we are confident and composed enough to take them.”

History of the two teams meeting

These two tier one nation sides have met in 42 test matches over the years – South Africa leading with 25 wins, England with 15 and a draw occurring on the two remaining occasions.

Their most recent meeting was in November of 2018 and the home side England, at Twickenham, scored the narrowest of victories, beating the Springboks 12-11.

This weekend’s face-off will be of an even greater magnitude as both sides come in to the game with something to prove. England aim to show the world that their form has not peaked too soon, and that they still have more to give.

Whilst South Africa will be intent on proving that despite their rather lacklustre semi-final against Wales, they have the capability to return to being the reigning rugby union champions.

 

The referee

On Saturday, referee Jerome Garces will become the first Frenchman to referee a Rugby World Cup final.

The experienced referee will take the whistle in the centre, with fellow countryman Romain Poite and kiwi Ben O’Keeffe as his assistants on the lines. The TMO role will be taken by another kiwi, Ben Skeen.

Garces said he was “honoured and delighted” to be appointed to the position, and fellow World Cup referee Nigel Owens tweeted his praise for his colleague and advised him to enjoy the “very special occasion”.

 

Where and when to watch the game

The final takes place this Saturday, 2nd November, in Yokohama with kick off at 9am UK and Ireland time. The game will be broadcast live on ITV, as well as there being live commentary provided on BBC Radio 5 Live.

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