Two tips for the Rugby World Cup final as England look to emulate 2003.
So it all comes down to this, after years of preparation and build-up England and South Africa meet in the Rugby World Cup Final.
The Springboks could become the first side to lose a World Cup pool match and still win the title, while the English side will be looking to emulate the great side of 2003 as the only Northern Hemisphere side to lift the William Webb Ellis Cup.
England produced what many have dubbed their finest ever display as they completely outplayed the much vaunted All Blacks in a 19-7 win – a score line which slightly flattered New Zealand as their only points came from an England mistake.
Eddie Jones has decided to retain his starting XV from that game, with the only change seeing Ben Spencer coming from outside of the squad and onto the bench after the injury to Willi Heinz.
South Africa by contrast produced a tactically rigid performance against Wales, relying on their kicking game and defence in a 19-16 win. Rassie Erasmus has also made just one change to his squad, with electric winger Cheslin Kolbe returning to the starting line-up after missing the semi-final.
The two sides met four times during 2018, South Africa won a home test series 2-1 in the summer of 2018, with England throwing away sizeable leads in the first two tests – both those games were at high altitude and played at an unsustainable pace. Before England triumphed 12-11 at Twickenham in the Autumn Internationals.
And after those fixtures not many would have predicted the two to be playing the final just over a year later.
In the eight finals ever played there have been 16 tries scored, but both of South Africa’s wins in 1995 and 2007 didn’t feature a single try. Having said that I have been drawn to the total tries market which is 3.5 and a best price of 13/10.
We have seen throughout this tournament that England can match the best attacking sides in the world, particularly with the Ford/Farrell axis. They had two scores (one very dubiously) called back against New Zealand and admitted after the game they left plenty of points out on the pitch.
I can’t see them moving away from their style and that could see them scoring 2-3 tries, which may only leave the Springboks needing one score to beat the 3.5 - despite their fairly limited game plan so far in the tournament we saw in the Rugby Championship they can score when needed.
So this would be my first bet for the final.
Jonny May limped off the field in the semi-final win over New Zealand, but he has been passed fit for the final and can add to his fantastic try scoring record against South Africa. In his six appearances against the Boks he has four tries – and his battle with Kolbe will be superb.
May’s early scores have become a feature of this England side and I think at 5/2 he represents great value in the anytime tryscorer market.