Rugby World Cup Predictions: The Final

Here we are at the final stage of what has been a wonderful World Cup, made so by the Japanese hosting of the occasion as much as – or possibly more so than – the quality of Rugby on show.

Before we get to the main event, the ultimate showpiece for our sport, we must first address the Bronze final, the match nobody wants to play in.

Wales v New Zealand
I fear that this is going to be a disaster for Wales. Weary and beset by a raft of injuries, Warren Gatland has selected some players as the ‘last ones standing’ in his squad, as they take to the field against the All Blacks.

Having ridden their luck to some extent, never playing particularly convincingly but merely pointing to the results as they kept on winning, it feels a little as though the bubble has burst as Gatland prepares to leave his role.

Where Wales have brought in the likes of Hallam Amos, Owen Lane and Adam Beard, New Zealand have been able to call on Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill-Williams and Rieko Ioane. It’s arguably a stronger team than that picked for the semi-final against England, given the experience that some of those players will bring, and I think they are going to run riot.

New Zealand by 28

England v South Africa
What a brilliant prospect for the final, and we’re guaranteed a different winner of the tournament for the first time in 12 years – and in fact, this is a repeat of that final 12 years ago, won 15-6 by the Springboks in Paris.

But this time, England start as favourites after THAT performance against the All Blacks last weekend, and having warmed up by dispatching Argentina, Australia and New Zealand in their last three fixtures. By contrast, South Africa has faced Canada, Japan and Wales en route to the final, and you can only play what’s in front of you, of course, but some people believe that a battle-hardened team would stand a better chance at the business end of the tournament.

The Springboks have been one-dimensional so far, playing to their traditional strengths with a monstrous pack and an excellent kick-chase game. It’s not dissimilar to the style of play that saw them lift the trophy in 2007, but up against Eddie Jones’ England, you wonder if it will be enough.

You also wonder if there’s not something else being held in reserve, such has been the Springboks’ relatively straightforward route to the final. Is there a gameplan stashed away by Rassie Erasmus for when they really need it? Playing a simple game is enough to beat a plucky Japan and a depleted Wales in the knockout stages, so why not keep something in reserve for the final?

South African fans will certainly be hoping so, because England won’t be intimidated by the physical confrontation, they have their own outstanding defence, and enough firepower to launch a counter-attack or two from any poor kicking from hand. Neutrals might be hoping so too, because nobody wants to see a repeat of that second semi-final last Sunday.

Frankly, if England come anywhere near replicating their all-court performance from last weekend, they will lift the trophy. There are plenty of ball-carriers up front, and more ball-players than in previous England sides, whilst out wide the twin playmakers execute a smart kicking strategy without being afraid to run the ball if the opportunity arises. Sam Underhill and Tom Curry have formed an effective partnership in the back row, delivering the quick ball on which fly-half George Ford can thrive.

If South Africa can compete at the breakdown, slow down England’s possession and force the pack into reverse gear, they’ll put pressure on Ford and might well gain the upper hand. But South Africa’s back row won’t be as effective in the loose as Underhill and Curry, with Francois Louw only making the bench for the Springboks, and I think the game will be won here.

As I said in my article before the semi-final, we know England have a huge game in them, but we haven’t seen it consistently enough to expect it regularly, and perhaps it’s only that sense of the unexpected that has caught out Ireland and New Zealand this year.

But the Rugby World Cup climax seems like as good a time as any to dig deep and pull out your best performance, and I’m backing Eddie Jones to prepare his team to do just that. I suspect they’ll get their noses in front, kick their goals and rely on their defence to see things out.

England by 8

Let me know what you think! I am actually going to South Africa next week, so if the Springboks win, I’ll buy a green jersey and share a photo.

48 thoughts on “Rugby World Cup Predictions: The Final

  1. Is a coincidence that two of England’s most complete performances in the past year (v IRE in the warm ups and last week) have been reffed by Owens? I hope so…and that Garces isn’t too whistle-happy, as I reckon anything that kills the match’s momentum will favour RSA. Head says England by two scores, heart too nervous to hope.

    On the subject of officiating, seems a bit shocking that Peyper has been selected as a touch judge for WAL vs NZL, despite his ridiculously unprofessional behaviour after the last Wales match he reffed! Let’s see if he manages to restrain himself from mocking any AB errors after this one (not that I think there will be many…I fear they will run away with it).

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    1. I’m hoping its just coincidence (I’m sure it is actually). 😉
      On the contrary, I think SA fans were petitioning to have Jerome removed from their SF match because their win record under him is so poor.
      I do too hope for a free-flowing match, I think if England start having to grind it out it will nullify the threat of the backs. With 6 forwards selected on the bench, SA also have more to bring on when the starting XV fatigue.
      Though mildly inappropriate, I do think the Peyper thing was blown well out of proportion. I would be miffed if I saw a ref mocking my team after officiating their loss but there was an insinuation that Peyper was on Wales’ side the whole time. He didn’t make Vahamahina elbow Wainwright.

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      1. I agree, the insinuation that Peyper was on Wales’ side throughout was silly. However, level-headed judgement and good decision-making are basically the two most important qualities in a ref, so I had thought at the least they’d hold him back from officiating again at the World Cup…and especially not in a match involving either team related to his incident!

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  2. It’s on the day. I think SA will step up and take it somehow. Either team would make a fine world champion though as they’ve both been superb. Both teams are capable of beating each other as we have seen in recent tests.

    I think Eddie Jones is very cal in interviews but he has put continuous pressure on England to get better and better every game. Having said that, we can’t forget that England had a nice 2 week break at the end of the pool. That could count too. Impossible to call. SA have been in Japan longer than any other team having played a test against Japan in the beginning. Typhoon or no typhoon, whichever team wins is a highly deserved world champion. Regardless of typhoons, if you beat all 3 southern hem teams to take the cup, only a madman would begrudge you. Is a southern hem clean sweep one step too far for England (they beat Argentina too let’s not forget)? I think it might be but I wouldn’t be surprised if they can pull it off either. They are very close to making a certain kind of history here.

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    1. How can SA be superb? Define superb. Being beaten already doesn’t add up to their being superb. Surely, this is irrational thinking. Interesting & ironic that you should use the term ‘madman’ Bigglesworth!? Perhaps you meant madam.

  3. Bigglesworth are you still harping on about that 2 week break? Oh please. That will have no bearing on the outcome. England have just put in two really strong performances against Aus and NZ that I suspect would/could have taken more out of the tank than SA past two matches…. they beat a Japan side by sitting on them in the 2nd half, and I don’t feel Wales really took much out of them either!

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    1. DMaul, don’t often see i 2 I with you, but WTF is Biggles on about? In particular, his response to yr response to his post? Gobbledegook? Or is it me?

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  4. DarthMaul Did I not say England will have had a a clean sweep against all 4 southern hem teams if they can do it. SA have no excuse but my problem is with World Rugby, not England or Japan.

  5. If England win tomorrow they would’ve done the almost unthinkable by beating all the Rugby Championship sides (including the current southern hemisphere champs in the final of a world cup), which would make them the rugby world champs through and through. Based on what we’ve seen thus far it seems a strong probability to happen, but then again I am also thinking (and secretly hoping) the final could end up being just one game too many in a long row of seriously intense encounters.

  6. England by at least 10 points, I actually reckon about 15 even.

    If that makes me an arrogant prick, I offer my apologies, but it’s based on the sound logic that England has the advantage in four key areas:
    – Breakdown (UnderCurry & Itoje in particular)
    – Quality of “Finishers”, all can make a positive impact.
    – Multiple strike runners, able to attack defensive line at different points (got a lot of mileage out of running the Vunipolae and Sinckler down 13 channel last week).
    – So far at least, they’ve shown more creativity than SA. Complete blend of good tactical kicking (with proper chase) and getting it through hands with incisive attacking lines.

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      1. OK, then I think discipline is arguably a fifth area of advantage for England. They are vastly improved in this area. I think I’m right in saying Dan Cole hasn’t given away a single penalty at this tourny – if that’s right, it is unheard of for him!!

        Also, as much as I find Garcès is an overly officious ref and will ping both sides for all kinds of minor indiscretions, I always get the feeling that he REALLY dislikes South Africa! Seriously, he’s so harsh on them! I hope that England can keep the game out of Garcès’s hands. I want to see them win fair and square.

    1. You are not an arrogant prick. For me England by 20+. I don’t know why everyone is getting so juiced up by SA. Narrow defence works against static one out runners but won’t against England constantly changing the point of attack. Faf de Clerk is a decent SH but against Saracens has been repeatedly quashed so plenty of players on the pitch who know how to deal with him.
      I just cannot see where SA are going to score points, but can see plenty of opportunity for England. ????????????????????????????

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      1. This comment will age! Will it be misplaced arrogance or well placed assuredness? Just over half a day will reveal all. Wish I had skin in the game. Can’t really support either. Was supporting Wales in the last 4 and they are 4th.

  7. Am somewhat predictably nervous. Either England by 7-10 or SA by 3. Have been flipping between the two all week. Hoping for the former obviously and that is Superbru prediction.

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  8. I too have been flipping through feeling generally confident to then nervous. My concern is that SA have been holding some back – their best performance (albeit a losing one) was against NZ in the opener. Their QF and SF wins seemed like they were just clicking through the gears with one eye on the final. England have now fully shown their hand against Aus and NZ, so SA can know what to expect. I feel there is a bit of the ‘unknown’ what Eng are walking into BUT lets hope EJ has another tactical masterplan up his sleeve…..

    Cmon!!!

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  9. Anyone else worried about Garces refereeing? That means the breakdown will be a lottery and I think that helps SA rather than us. Also Garces is more likely to hand out a red card than Nige who, in my book, is a vastly superior referee. SA have played stodgy ponderous rugby but we know they can play better and Kolbe is incredibly dangerous.

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    1. Definitely a little worried that he can be played to give away pens. SA got a penalty at the end for a cynical collapsing of the maul by their own players to draw the penalty. If a red card is warranted it has to be handed out. The game would be dragged into disrepute if rules weren’t enforced for the latter stages. We’d still have career ending spear tackles for massive audiences and it would be much worse then as the pressure to enforce would be greater and greater. Don’t do stupid shit and you won’t get a red. I hope for 1) Discipline and accuracy from the players 2) a little bit of flow, not blowing up too much for small things. Only a matter of hours away now! 🙂

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      1. Why are you worried Bigglesworth? Neither are yr teams. Also, wouldn’t the game be dragged into disrepute if rules weren’t enforced for the earlier stages too?

    2. Yes Bolter. Very concerned about Garcès, but arguably I’d be really worried about him if I were an SA fan.

      One of the main ways in which Owens is indeed a vastly superior ref is that he lets the game flow And doesn’t penalise every minor indiscretion.

      Danger for England is that they probably “got away” with quite a few things last week and will need to adapt quickly to what I expect to be a more officious and strict interpretation of laws today.

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  10. Right shirt washed, tickets printed, childcare plans made. Just need to hope i can get some sleep tonight through all the nerves and excitement.
    Going to Franklins Gardens for Tom Wood testimonial breakfast followed by watching the game in the Rodber bar along with some of the Saints team. Should make for an epic day out

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      1. Dylan wasn’t there but saw Tom Wood, Brian Mujati, Temiana Harrison, Ben Franks, Harry Maillnder and about a dozen other players were wandering around

  11. 48 months in the making you say,with some help
    from Aussie and Kiwi in all departments,against 18 months ,in what could be termed from rugby ashes to almost riches, makes me think the smart money should be on England.
    Home grown with the exception of one makes me tremendously proud of their achievements.
    Well done Boks -there is some light at the end of the rugby tunnel how dim it appeared to be at the beginning of a remarkable journey.

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  12. Croatia won the final Davis Cup title of the old system on Sunday. Marin Cilic, the world No 7, was far too good for his French opponents throughout, and overcame Lucas Pouille in straight sets to complete a 3-1 victory.

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  13. Maybe England need to get Youngs off an bring in Spencer. Youngs is a bit shell shocked out of his comfort zone. SA have the upper hand in every department at half time. Killing them in the scrum, upsetting the lineout. Ford is not on the ball. This SA defence as I expected is asking questions of England. Can England come back?

  14. Croacia ganó el título final de la Copa Davis del antiguo sistema el domingo. Marin Cilic, el número 7 del mundo, fue demasiado bueno para sus oponentes franceses, y venció a Lucas Pouille en sets seguidos para completar una victoria por 3-1.

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