Brodie Retallick This is one glamorous plugin!
Sky Sports rugby union expert and former England international Stuart Barnes is back to look at the big talking points from the Rugby World Cup.
There’s a look back on the semi-finals, where England and South Africa triumphed to book their place in this Saturday’s final.
Barnes also takes a look at the areas where Saturday’s decider is likely to be won and lost, and the key men for England…
1.Let’s start with the most tactically astute performance I have ever seen from England. I don’t know about ‘the best’ – I don’t even know what that really means.
There was the Grand Slam demolition of Ireland in 2003 – a performance of power and cold calculation. Then there was the win in Wellington in 2003, with England down to 13 men for a while. Straight out of the Alamo except in this instance the defenders prevail and force Mexico’s army to retreat.
And then there is the 2003 World Cup final – the only final England have won. That in itself makes it a contender for best in its own right.
But for sheer clinical control, I cannot remember anything to match the semi-final performance against New Zealand.
2.Twenty-four hours later, South Africa scraped through against a game but weary-looking collection of proud Welshmen.
It was light years away from the quality witnessed roughly 24 hours earlier. England – on the evidence of semi-final weekend – only have to turn up. But, as someone said to me: “Can England play any better than that? Can South Africa be any worse?”
If England fall off their game – admittedly, quite a lot – and South Africa lift theirs up – admittedly, quite a lot – we have a competitive affair. The Springboks, being who they are, will surely not wilt, even in the face of another excellent England performance.
3.South Africa have a stunning array of lock forwards, all with different strengths. The four of them are used in an attempt to overpower opposition.
There is little doubt that the bench made a difference against Wales, but England have Maro Itoje. He reached for the sublime on Saturday, matching his magnificent second Test for the Lions in Wellington with another spellbinding display against Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick.
He took – with a little help
These extensions are quite magnificent.
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