The Rugby World Cup final: Will England or South Africa rule the world?
England face South Africa in the World Cup final in Yokohama on Saturday morning.
The showdown is a repeat of the 2007 final, which South Africa won 15-6.
But England are firm favourites to lift the Webb Ellis trophy this time following their impressive victory over defending champions New Zealand in the semi-final.
The All Blacks took the bronze medal after a 40-17 win over Wales.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look back at Friday’s action and ahead to Saturday’s showpiece.
England playmakers George Ford and Owen Farrell are tasked with masterminding victory over South Africa after Eddie Jones named an unchanged side. 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 Damian De Allende. Farrell and Manu Tuilagi continue their midfield 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. Ben Spencer replacing hamstring injury-victim Willi Heinz is the only adjustment to the bench.
Last hurrah for Erasmus
Rassie Erasmus will step down as South Africa head coach after the match. 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. “For me, it’s an emotional one in the sense that I didn’t think 25 Test matches will go that quickly,” Erasmus said. “But I will be heavily involved, hopefully, still after this – whatever way we are going to go with the head coach.” Star man Cheslin Kolbe replaces Sbu Nkosi on the right wing after recovering from the ankle injury that forced him to miss the 19-16 last-four victory over Wales in the only change to the starting XV.
Jones challenges England
Jones has told his England players they can inspire the entire nation. Jones believes victory over the Springboks at a sold out 69,000-capacity International Stadium Yokohama has the ability to bring joy to the country and fire the imagination of future Red Rose stars. “The players can inspire a whole country now, they can inspire a sporting community,” former Japan coach Jones said. “That’s the opportunity they’ve got and all the messages we’ve seen back in England show that there’s a bit of a rugby fever going on. Now mums are telling kids ‘play rugby, be the next Kyle Sinckler, be the next Ellis Genge’, and that’s the opportunity they’ve got. It changes how the country feels about itself for a period of time – it might change at the next general election – but for a period of time it changes how people feel about themselves and that’s the greatest joy.”
Jonny Wilkinson offered drop-goal guidance to Farrell as England put the finishing touches to preparations. Wilkinson was present for the week’s last training session at Tokyo’s Fuchu Asahi Football Park. He famously struck the extra-time drop goal that clinched a 20-17 victory over Australia in the 2003 final.
Wales come up short
Warren Gatland’s final game as Wales head coach ended in defeat as New Zealand emphatically won the World Cup bronze medal at Tokyo Stadium. The All Blacks’ 40-17 triumph consigned Wales to a fourth-place finish for the second time in three World Cup campaigns under Gatland. It also extended New Zealand’s winning run against Wales to 31 Tests, having not lost in the fixture since 1953. Gatland’s 12-year reign, highlighted by four Six Nations titles, three Grand Slams and two World Cup semi-final appearances, could not find a fairytale finish. New Zealand had the game sewn up by half-time through wing Ben Smith’s try double, plus touchdowns for prop Joe Moody and full-back Beauden Barrett, with fly-half Richie Mo’unga kicking four conversions. Wales countered through Hallam Amos’ clever try and five points from Rhys Patchell, but centre Ryan Crotty’s try and another Mo’unga conversion early in the second half finished them off before the latter added a late touchdown. Wing Josh Adams scored a second Wales try, though, giving him seven for the tournament.
Adams’ seven tries are the most scored by a Wales player at a single World Cup, surpassing Shane Williams’ six in 2007. Only three players – Jonah Lomu, Bryan Habana and Julian Savea – have scored more.