The key battles as England and South Africa chase World Cup glory

Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Manu Tuilagi have been among England’s key players on their way to the World Cup final – but Saturday could provide their toughest test.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the key individual battles which will shape the destination of the Webb Ellis Cup.

Owen Farrell v Handre Pollard

Owen Farrell kicks a penalty against Australia
Owen Farrell kicks a penalty against Australia (Ashley Western/PA)

The rival goal-kickers both go into the final in position to finish as the tournament’s leading points-scorer – whoever wins that battle will go a long way to helping their team lift the trophy.

Pollard has 47 points to Farrell’s 46, second and third behind tournament leader Yu Tamura of Japan on 51.

The pair have attempted 24 kicks apiece, with Farrell slightly the more accurate having made eight of nine penalties and 11 of 15 conversions – Pollard has 10 penalties and seven conversions to his name.

Pollard has been slightly the more effective ball-carrier, outgaining Farrell 97 metres to 84 on three fewer carries.

But Farrell, playing mostly at centre, has been integral to England’s defence with 49 tackles. Pollard has made just 21 at fly-half, with both men having tackle success percentages in the 70s.

Maro Itoje v Eben Etzebeth

Maro Itoje, right, makes a tackle on New Zealand's Jack Goodhue
Maro Itoje, right, was dominant against New Zealand (Ashley Western/PA)

Itoje was named man of the match in England’s semi-final win over New Zealand, with a dominant tackling performance including three forced turnovers.

He has made 55 in the tournament, with a 92 per cent success rate, and has made 54 metres on 26 carries to boot.

The 6ft 5in Saracens lock is also England’s primary lineout jumper, with rival number four Etzebeth enjoying the same status for South Africa and standing a mountainous 6ft 8in.

Etzebeth has also been effective in all phases of play, though not as dynamic as Itoje – he has a 94 per cent success rate on 34 tackles while his 22 carries have yielded just 28 metres.

Manu Tuilagi v Damian De Allende

Wales v South Africa – 2019 Rugby World Cup – Semi Final – International Stadium Yokohama
Damian De Allende, bottom, scores South Africa’s semi-final try against Wales (Ashley Western/PA)

The rival centres popped up with the crucial tries in their sides’ respective semi-final wins, Tuilagi setting the tone with England’s second-minute score against the All Blacks while De Allende’s touchdown ultimately saw off Wales.

It was his second of the tournament and Tuilagi’s third following a brace against Tonga, and just reward for the pair’s dynamic running.

De Allende edges the metres made count by one on 179, though Tuilagi’s gains have come on 34 carries as opposed to 50 and in two games fewer.

The latter discrepancy also brings Tuilagi’s tackle count of 27 roughly into line with De Allende’s 43 on a per-game basis, though the South African has an 86 per cent success rate to Tuilagi’s 73 per cent.

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