Rugby World Cup: England v South Africa – Red Rose ready to counter any element of ‘surprise’

Courtney Lawes insists England need to be “ready for anything” in Saturday’s World Cup final against South Africa.

Tuesday, 29th October 2019, 11:44 pm
PREPARATION TIME: England head coach Eddie Jones looks on during a training session in Fuchu. Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Lawes and company will go into battle as favourites to lift a second world title after England’s Jonny Wilkinson-inspired success against Australia 16 years ago.

England elevated their World Cup campaign to new heights with a stunning semi-final demolition of New Zealand.

It was the All Blacks’ first World Cup defeat for 12 years and destroyed all hope of them achieving an unprecedented trophy hat-trick.

England's Kyle Sinckler during the training session at Fuchu Asahi Football Park, Tokyo. Picture: Adam Davy/PA

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South Africa, though, displayed their renowned physical approach in ultimately winning a prolonged arm-wrestle against Wales two days ago.

And Lawes, whose former Northampton team-mates include 2007 South African World Cup winner Victor Matfield, knows the Springboks present a considerable challenge.

“There are plenty of physical teams,” England lock Lawes said. “Are they one of the best in terms of physicality? Yes, certainly.

“It’s a big challenge for us, and it’s something we are going to have to front up to at the weekend.

GETTING READY: Courtney Lawes runs with the ball during the England training session at Fuchu Asahi Football Park in Tokyo. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images.

“They are tough guys, they are brought up tough and they play tough. So do we. So we are looking forward to it.

“I probably expect them to kick a lot – they do kick a lot generally.

“Being a World Cup final, we need to be ready for anything. There will be a couple of surprises thrown in there, I’m sure, but generally, they will stick to what they know.”

Lawes has fond memories of Matfield’s time at Franklin’s Gardens, with Saints having recruited a number of South African players down the years.

“He was a brilliant guy to have in the team, a fantastic leader,” Lawes added. “I picked up that side of things from him.

“Obviously, having so much experience and so much knowledge is something to marvel (at), really.”

With the ovations dying down after England’s masterclass against the All Blacks, England are now ready for one final push in their last game of the tournament.

“It took maybe a day to realise what kind of opportunity we’ve given ourselves, but now we are back to training and focusing on the next game,” added Lawes.

“We always planned to beat New Zealand, we always planned to get to the final, so it was no surprise to us.

“The good thing about this team is we are used to not getting ahead of ourselves. So we know we’ve got the opportunity to make history, but it is not just going to happen.

“We know that, and we know that there is a way we are going to have to train this week and things we have to do to put ourselves in the best position to come away with a win at the weekend and make history.”

England defence coach John Mitchell – the former New Zealand coach and international – has seen South African rugby from all angles.

“I’ve watched the Springboks as a kid and played against them and coached them,” said Mitchell.

“I used to look at them and think they are the one side in the world that can create pressure like no other team.

“But what is great about that is that there is now another team that can create that pressure -–and that is us.

“They are very forward dominated. And they love their scrum, love their line-out drive and love the physical nature of the game.

“There are many ways you can play this game and they play it in a particular way and always seem to have an intimidator at number and that’s just their way.

“And it works for them.”

Mitchell said he expected South Africa to be more direct than the All Blacks.

“What we are going to witness are the two most powerful rugby teams in the world,” added Mitchell.

“They have a very clever scrum half in Faf de Klerk, who is sharp. And fly-half Handre Pollard is in really, really good form. They have second-rowers who love winning the gain line.

“Against New Zealand we dealt with a lot of speed, a lot of footwork, but South Africa are certainly going to be a team that is more direct. Pressure is definitely going to come at us and that asks questions of your fundamentals.

“It will come down to the core basics that are really important to us – supporting your mate on the floor and in the carry.

“We also feel we are very adaptable too – we don’t just play one way so that’s one of strengths.”