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Sky Sports rugby union expert Stuart Barnes is back with his final Rugby World Cup talking points column following the conclusion of the tournament in Japan.
There is a look back on South Africa’s win over England in Saturday’s final, plus reflections on the tournament as a whole and the moments which stuck out.
Stuart also reveals his team of the tournament and gives his verdict on World Rugby’s Player of the Year…
RWC: Team of the tournament
Pienaar: 2019 Springboks triumph tops 1995 win
Jones: This England team is finished now
1.It looks as if Warren Gatland’s final thought on England was bang on the money. England, so good against New Zealand in the semi-final, were a pale shadow in the final against a South African side whose set-piece basics put England on the back foot from the earliest moments of the match.
So accurate in so much of their game a week before, here Eddie Jones’ team were inaccurate to the point of reckless. Passes flew in all directions, there were dropped balls and knock-ons – you name it.
England were not as bad as they were brilliant in the semi-final, but against an organised South African team they were nowhere near good enough.
2.So credit to the South Africans, their captain, Siya Kolisi, and head coach, Rassie Erasmus. As the captain waited to step forward for the trophy lift, television cameras focused on the two men in discussion.
I would like to think the black Springboks captain wanted to share the moment of the lift with his white coach in a display of racial unity.
And I would like to think that Erasmus refused, understanding the galvanising power of sport – if only for a brief period of time – and told his captain to claim the deserved headlines for a united South Africa.
3.Defence wins World Cups. I tipped South Africa in these columns, my newspaper columns, and everywhere else in the weeks leading up to the World Cup itself.
The early loss to the All Blacks did not put me off them, but the scruffy nature of their semi-final win against a ravaged-looking Wales, when contrasted with the England demolition of New Zealand, did the damage and I deserted my instinctive sense that this was set to be South Africa’s year.
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