England unchanged for George Ford and Owen Farrell to lead World Cup final charge against South Africa
England will entrust twin playmakers George Ford and Owen Farrell with the task of masterminding victory over South Africa after naming an unchanged side for the World Cup final.
Eddie Jones has kept faith with Ford at fly-half after his outstanding display in the remarkable 19-7 last-four victory over New Zealand - despite the physical threat posed by Springboks centre Damien de Allende.
The in-form Ford was dropped against Australia two rounds ago to stiffen the midfield defence in the hope of containing the Wallabies’ Samu Kerevi, but his vision is viewed as essential to toppling South Africa at International Stadium Yokohama.
Farrell and Manu Tuilagi continue their centre partnership and there is a boost for England in the front row after Kyle Sinckler won his battle with a calf injury to resume at tighthead prop.
There is one injury-enforced change on the bench where Ben Spencer comes in for Willi Heinz, who has been ruled out of Jones’ 50th Test as head coach because of a hamstring injury.
Spencer will win his fourth cap and make his World Cup debut if he is brought on to replace scrum-half Ben Youngs.
It is the first time since March 2016 and only the second occasion overall that Jones has named an unchanged starting XV.
Farrell leads a side that contains 731 caps as England play in their fourth final and bid to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy for the second time.
“It has been a good week, the players have been together a while now so it’s less about the volume of training this week, it’s more about sharpening the sword,” Jones said.
“South Africa are a difficult opponent and we are going to have to fight really hard to win.
“We know the physical part of the game is going to be important and the players will go into this game well prepared knowing how we want to play. We will go and play with no fear.
“South Africa will probably play a similar type of game to what they have played all tournament so we need be good in the arm wrestle so that when we have the opportunities to break the game up, we are then confident and composed enough to take them.”
Rassie Erasmus, meanwhile, has announced that he will step down as South Africa head coach after Saturday’s World Cup final against England.
Erasmus has held the post since early 2018 while also acting as the nation’s director of rugby, a role he will continue to perform post Japan 2019.
It was speculated that the 47-year-old former Springbok might retain the coaching reins for the Lions tour in two years’ time, but current defence coach Jacques Nienaber is likely to be his successor.
“For me, it’s an emotional one in the sense that I didn’t think 25 Test matches will go that quickly,” Erasmus said. “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.”
South Africa’s star wing Cheslin Kolbe returns for Saturday’s World Cup final against England in the only change made by Erasmus.
Kolbe replaces Sbu Nkosi in the number 14 jersey after recovering from the ankle injury that forced him to miss the 19-16 last four victory over Wales.
Teams for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama. England: E Daly; A Watson, M Tuilagi, O Farrell (captain), J May; G Ford, B Youngs; M Vunipola, J George, K Sinckler, M Itoje, C Lawes, T Curry, S Underhill, B Vunipola.
Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie, J Marler, D Cole, G Kruis, M Wilson, B Spencer, H Slade, J Joseph.
South Africa: W Le Roux; C Kolbe, L Am, D De Allende, M Mapimpi; H Pollard, F De Klerk; T Mtawarira, M Mbonambi, F Malherbe, E Etzebeth, L De Jager, S Kolisi (captain), PS Du Toit, D Vermuelen.
Replacements: M Marx, S Kitshoff, V Koch, RG Snyman, F Mostert, F Louw, H Jantjies, F Steyn.
Referee: Jerome Garces (France).