England vs South Africa: Everything you need to know about the Rugby World Cup final, including stats, key battles and confirmed teams

1 Nov

England have the chance to avenge their 2007 Rugby World Cup final defeat to South Africa when the two nations meet in the global showpiece once again today in Japan.

The two giants of the sport go head-to-head this morning in what is expected to be a battle of skill vs physicality.

The International Stadium Yokohama will host the event, which kicks off at 9am on Saturday
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Eddie Jones’ men are the favourites following their spectacular victory over New Zealand in the semi-finals – one of the greatest performances in England’s history.

But the Springboks are an unstoppable force, renown for their ability to overpower lighter opposition, as shown in their brutal semi-final defeat of Wales.

Here, talkSPORT.com gives you everything you need to know ahead of the showdown in Yokohama.

Meet the teams

Jones has kept faith with George Ford at fly-half alongside Owen Farrell at inside centre, despite the presence of South Africa centre Damian de Allende.

Ford was dropped for the quarter-final against Australia to stifle the physical threat of the Wallabies’ Samu Kerevi, before returning to deliver a stunning performance against the All Blacks.

His vision will be essential if England are to find a way through the Springboks on Saturday.

George Ford has been one of England’s standout players in Japan
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Speaking of creativity, South Africa welcome back wing Chelsin Kolbe for the final.

Kolbe missed the Wales victory through injury and the Springboks were notably short of attacking inspiration in his absence.

A maverick talent who can produce something out of nothing, Kolbe is one of the best players in the world and could prove crucial.

He is one of perhaps three South Africa players you would put in a combined XI, alongside scrum-half Faf de Klerk and centre De Allende.

England would dominate the rest, hence why they’re favourites.

England XV: Daly; Watson, Tuilagi, Farrell (capt), May, Ford, Youngs; Vunipola, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Lawes, Curry, Underhill, Vunipola.

South Africa XV: Le Roux; Kolbe, Am, De Allende, Mapimpi; Pollard, De Klerk; Mtawarira, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, De Jager, Kolisi (capt), Du Toit, Vermeulen.

De Allende is huge for South Africa – both in size and stature
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Meet the coaches

Eddie Jones

England’s head-coach has tasted his fair share of both World Cup glory and heartache.

It was his Australia side who the Red Rose beat in the 2003 final, but he was on the right end of the result in 2007 as a technical adviser to the triumphant South Africa team.

He knows the euphoria of winning a final and the devastation of losing one, making tomorrow perhaps the biggest day of his illustrious coaching career.

England’s often outspoken coach will be looking to outsmart the Springboks
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Rassie Erasmus

Erasmus will be looking for the send off to end all send offs on Saturday after announcing the final will be his last game as South Africa head coach.

He has been combining the job with his director of rugby role since 2018 and will revert to that position following the tournament, having engineered a stunning turnaround in the Springboks’ fortunes.

“For me, it’s an emotional one in the sense that I didn’t think 25 Test matches will go that quickly,” said Erasmus.

“The moment you get hands-on with the Springboks again, the adrenaline starts pumping and you get back into the mould and it’s a totally different feeling.

“It’s wonderful to be here. It’s sad that there are only three days left and then it’s all over.

“But I will be heavily involved, hopefully, still after this – whatever way we are going to go with the head coach.”

Erasmus will relinquish his head coach duties after Saturday’s showdown
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What are the key battles?

Owen Farrell vs Handre Pollard

The two rival kickers face off in a battle to be named the tournament’s highest points-scorer – and their accuracy could determine the outcome in Yokohama.

Finals are so often cagey, tense affairs which can be decided by a single penalty or – famously – a drop goal.

England’s 2003 hero Jonny Wilkinson actually stopped by training on Friday to give Farrell, Ford and Ben Youngs some last-minute kicking tips.

Farrell currently has 46 points to Pollard’s 47, but England’s captain has been slightly more accurate off the tee.

Both men have attempted 24 kicks each, with Farrell nailing eight out of nine penalties and 11 out of 15 conversions, while Pollard has struck ten penalties out of 12 and missed five of his 12 conversions.

Farrell had the perfect teacher to go through some last-minute kicking drills
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Maro Itoje vs Eben Elizabeth

Itoje was named England’s man of the match against New Zealand and with good reason.

The lock produced a dominant tackling performance, including three forced turnovers, to continue his remarkable success rate (92% of 55 tackles) in the tournament so far.

Etzebeth has played the same role for South Africa, although not as dynamically as Itoje. He has a 94% success rate on 34 tackles.

Can Itoje replicate his mastercalss against the All Blacks?
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Manu Tuilagi vs Damian de Allende

If you stop De Allende, you probably stop the Springboks.

It was his crucial try which ultimately saw off Wales, his second of the tournament, demonstrating his undeniable physical threat by shoving Dan Biggar to one side.

England will have to nullify his threat and carry one of their own through Manu Tuliagi.

The centre got the ball rolling for the Red Rose with his try against New Zealand inside the opening 90 seconds and was unstoppable throughout the game.

Tuilagi is one of England’s best ball carriers
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Key stats

England vs South Africa head-to-head record

Overall wins: England 15, South Africa 25

Wins in World Cup games: England 1, South Africa 3

Last five matches: England 3, South Africa 2

England's record in Rugby World Cup finals

P3, W1

1991: Australia 12 England 6 (Twickenham)

2003: Australia 17 England 20 (aet) (Sydney)

2007: England 6 South Africa 15 (Paris)

South Africa's record in Rugby World Cup finals

P2, W2

1995: South Africa 15 New Zealand 12 (aet) (Johannesburg)

2007: England 6 South Africa 15 (Paris)

South Africa came out on top in 2007
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Route to the final

England's road to Yokohama

England 35 Tonga 3 (Group stage)

England 45 USA 7 (Group stage)

England 39 Argentina 10 (Group stage)

England 0 France 0 (Group Stage) *CALLED OFF

England 40 Australia 16 (Quarter-final)

England 19 New Zealand 7 (Semi-final)

South Africa's road to Yokohama

New Zealand 23 South Africa 13 (Group stage)

South Africa 57 Namibia 3 (Group stage)

South Africa 49 Italy 3 (Group stage)

South Africa 66 Canada 7 (Group stage)

Japan 3 South Africa 26 (Quarter-final)

Wales 16 South Africa 19 (Semi-final)

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