World Cup final preview - The JOEpan Rugby Show
80 minutes in Tokyo.
The biggest game in world rugby takes place this weekend, as England and South Africa lock horns to decide who takes home the Webb Ellis trophy.
England have been building steadily through the year, a seismic win over Ireland in Dublin back in February kickstarted what would have been a Grand Slam season only for a toss-of-a-coin loss to Wales just weeks later. Eddie Jones has masterminded this squad's improvement from the 2015 debacle that saw them become the first host nation to be dumped out a the pool stages of a Rugby World Cup. Their utter dismantling of New Zealand in last week's semi-final, something the 19-7 scoreline does little justification to, was one of the best ever performances of any team at a Rugby World Cup. They're primed to emulate the crop of 2003.
South Africa, on the other hand, have boshed their way through to their first final in 12 years, when they also faced England. An opening weekend loss to New Zealand saw them land on the slightly more favourable side of the draw, and they've taken full advantage, squeezing the life out of Japan and arm-wresting Wales into submission to reach the decider. The job Rassie Erasmus has done since taking over just over 18 months ago is nothing short of incredible, as they won their first Rugby Championship since the addition of Argentina this summer. The involvement of Irishman Felix Jones in the Boks' coaching ticket also adds an extra layer of intrigue to proceedings.
The team selections have thrown up little in the way of surprises, England have dropped scrumhalf Ben Spencer straight into the 23 after he was flown out over the weekend to replace the injured Willi Heinz. While flame-heeled winger Cheslin Kolbe returns to the Springboks, and Erasmus has maintained his 6/2 forwards and backs split on the bench. They'll need to be wary of the almost-traditional lightning England starts.
It's set up to be an absolute classic of a final, two teams looking to end a combined wait of 27 years for rugby's biggest prize.
For a full preview of the game, make sure to check out The JOEpan Rugby Show with Rob O'Hanrahan and Jerry Flannery in the link below: