Owen Farrell – England
Any questions about Farrell’s form were quickly forgotten as England trounced Australia 40-16 in the quarter-finals to send the Wallabies packing.
The 28-year-old produced one of his best performances for his country in his preferred No. 10 jersey, justifying Eddie Jones’ decision to drop George Ford and reinstate Farrell at fly-half.
He was immaculate with the boot, kicking four penalties and four conversions, and directed England’s back-line with an authority and poise that was missing in the pool stages.
Whether Jones deploys the same line-up against the All Blacks remains to be seen, but Farrell’s performance – particularly with the boot – will go a long way to determining whether England can cause a shock.
They have averaged 27 kicks from hand per game in Japan and, if they want to keep applying pressure by pinning New Zealand back, then Farrell’s decision-making and accuracy could well decide the game.
Owen Farrell to have a 100% kicking record v New Zealand
Beauden Barrett – New Zealand
If England do choose to make New Zealand play from deep, then it will be down to Barrett to respond accordingly.
The 28-year-old has been moved from fly-half to full-back during this tournament to accommodate the impressive Richie Mo’unga.
However, two tries in three appearances have underlined his continued impact with ball in hand.
Barrett carried the ball 69 metres against Ireland, including three clean breaks, to win his second Player of the Match award of this World Cup.
Not only is Barrett one of the most effective attacking players around, but his defence is also exceptional, and that will no doubt be tested at points on Saturday.
Should he combine both facets of his game with an effective kick return then it’s hard to see England coming out on top.
If he has an off day, then Eddie Jones’ side have a real chance in Yokohama.
Beauden Barrett to score a try v England
Gareth Davies – Wales
Davies was anonymous as Wales limped to a one-point victory over 14-man France at the weekend.
The scrum-half made just seven metres with the ball in hand and missed three tackles before being hauled off after 52 minutes to be replaced by Tomos Williams.
There is no doubt that Davies will retain his starting spot against the Springboks, but a repeat performance on Sunday will surely condemn Wales to their third World Cup bronze final.
Davies’ quick passing, direct running and world-class support play – which were on full show as he won Player of the Match against Australia in the pool stages – must all be on show on Sunday.
South Africa are likely to dominate the breakdown with their imposing pack, so Davies will need to recycle the ball quickly to avoid unnecessary turnovers while staying alert for potential sniping opportunities should they commit too many men to the breakdown.
Wales are lucky they have Williams on the bench if Davies is not at his best, but by then it will likely be too late. He must perform from the first whistle.
Gareth Davies to score a try v South Africa
Faf de Klerk – South Africa
Another crucial part of Davies’ performance will be the way that he deals with his opposite number.
The Sale Sharks livewire was at the very centre of a powerful performance from South Africa against Japan in Tokyo – directing the Springbok pack as they looked to keep it tight before popping up on Malcolm Marx’s shoulder to score under the posts.
De Klerk was having an average tournament prior to the quarter-finals, with both Herschel Jantjies and Cobus Reinach threatening his place in the starting XV, but suddenly seems to have rediscovered some form.
His box kicking will likely keep the game deep in Wales’ territory, and the Boks will need his accurate passing and exceptional defence to stay on the front foot.
If de Klerk wins the battle of the scrum-halves, then Wales will struggle to stop the South African juggernaut.
Faf de Klerk to score the last try v Wales
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