5 things England must do to win the Rugby World Cup final
From shutting down one player to targeting another, this is what England must do to beat South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama on Saturday.
Shut down de Klerk
Shut down Faf de Klerk and you shut down South Africa.
The diminutive scrum-half is the fulcrum of this powerful Springboks side, the player charged with implementing their territorial game plan and managing their fearsome pack.
De Klerk kicked from hand 19 times in the semi-final against Wales, and England can expect a similar aerial barrage on Saturday.
If, however, they manage to limit his influence – as New Zealand did in a 23-13 win in the pool stages – then they will be well on their way to a second World Cup win.
Charging down his box kicks, slowing down his supply at the breakdown and preventing sniping opportunities are all ways in which England can do so.
It may have been Handre Pollard’s boot that carried South Africa to semi-final victory, but it was Wales’ ill-discipline which teed him up.
The South African pack’s constant pressure at set-pieces and the breakdown forced Wales to concede eight penalties, four of which were in kicking distance, with Pollard nailing all four.
Two of those came at the maul, one at the scrum and one at the breakdown, so England will need to keep their discipline throughout to prevent Pollard from cashing in.
In five games so far, they have conceded 36 penalties at an average of around seven per game – any more than that on Saturday and the Springboks will make them pay.
If, however, they do manage to stay disciplined, then they may find South Africa oblige by conceding penalties themselves – the Boks also average around seven per game.
Play their own game
Wales coach Warren Gatland not only provided Eddie Jones with ammo for the pre-match press conference, but also with a perfect blueprint of how not to beat South Africa.
Instead of getting the ball wide and testing the Boks’ backline, Wales inexplicably attempted to take them on at their own game of territorial kicking and set-piece dominance.
Wales kicked from hand 36 times in the match, just one less than South Africa across the 80 minutes, in a battle they were always going to lose.
The one time they did get the ball wide quickly, they scored, with Josh Adams going over in the corner for his sixth try of the tournament.
England must not fall into the same trap – the kicking game of Owen Farrell and George Ford will play a massive part – but their backline has the ability to rip through South Africa if given the chance.
Watch the wings
The focus for England will rightly be on negating South Africa’s power up front, but they cannot afford to ignore the threat out wide.
Makazole Mapimpi is the second-top try scorer at the tournament with five, while Cheslin Kolbe and Sbu Nkosi have another three between them.
The hot-stepping Kolbe missed the semi-final against Wales but signs from the Boks camp suggest he will be fit to return on Saturday.
Both players may only see the ball a few times throughout the 80 minutes but, when they do, England must shut down their threat early.
Let them get going and chaos will ensue, with Elliot Daly likely to be hopelessly exposed – just as he was by Australia wing Marika Koroibete in the quarters.
Target Le Roux
There are very few teams at the highest level in any sport that have such an obvious weakness as this current South Africa side.
Full-back Willie Le Roux was once their greatest weapon, with his darting runs from deep and solidity under the high ball putting him amongst the best 15s in the world.
The 30-year-old’s recent decline has been stark, however, with those threatening runs now non-existent and that security under the high ball regularly found to be shoddy.
In four matches at the World Cup, Le Roux has made six handling errors, missed 25 per cent of his tackles, beaten just two defenders and scored no tries.
England must target the former Wasps star with the high ball on Saturday, with costly errors likely to come under the pressure of a World Cup final.
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