Simon Mail previews the World Cup final and expects England to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the second time with victory against South Africa...
"The handicap mark is pitched at five points and England could cover this, in their best form, but this final looks likely to be settled by fine margins."
England v South Africa
Live on ITV
Outstanding England end All Blacks' dominance
England produced one of their greatest performances to move within one victory of lifting the World Cup for the second time in their history. Eddie Jones produced a tactical masterclass as his relentless team made defending champions New Zealand look mediocre in their outstanding semi-final triumph. Their 19-7 win does not tell the full story with the All Blacks flattered and England, who will now face South Africa in the final, should have won by a bigger margin.
From the moment Manu Tuilagi crossed the line in the second minute, England were in control and they never loosened their grip to end New Zealand's 12-year unbeaten run in the competition. Maro Itoje was exceptional, forcing three turnovers, while dynamic flankers Sam Underhill and Tom Curry were a constant menace in denying the All Blacks any momentum.
Unsurprisingly, England are unchanged from the team which defeated New Zealand. Captain Owen Farrell, Jonny May and Kyle Sinckler have all been passed fit after knocks during a bruising semi-final. George Ford continues at fly-half after the decision to bring him back in paid off handsomely last week. Scrum-half Ben Spencer is on the bench, in place of the injured Willi Heinz, after flying out to Japan last weekend as cover.
South Africa grind their way past Wales
South Africa's progress to the final has been less flamboyant but Rassie Erasmus has been unwavering in maintaining their limited gameplan. The Springboks have skillful backs, such as prolific wing Makazole Mapimpi, capable of opening up the opposition, but the team have focused on box kicking through scrum-half Faf de Klerk to force mistakes. Their forwards are as powerful as any in the competition but South Africa may need to open up to overcome England.
The Springboks are aiming to become the first team to lose a match on their way to lifting the Webb Ellis Cup. South Africa were beaten in their pool opener by New Zealand but finished runners-up before ending hosts Japan's brilliant run in the quarter-finals. The two-times world champions were pushed all the way by Wales in their semi-final but fly-half Handre Pollard's penalty kicks made the difference in the 19-16 win.
South Africa make just one change to the side which defeated Wales. Dangerous wing Cheslin Kolbe returns to the backline after recovering from his ankle injury. Kolbe comes in for Sbu Nkosi for Saturday's final in Yokohama. Erasmus has again decided to stick with his policy of naming six forwards on the bench and only two backs.
England deserve to be favourites, after the way they dismantled the All Blacks, but this is far from a foregone conclusion. The two teams, who met in the 2007 World Cup final with South Africa winning in France, are very familiar with each other after playing four times last year. The Springboks won the first two games, both at home, before England clinched victory in the last two so there is not a huge amount between the teams.
England to edge low-scoring final
The handicap mark is pitched at five points and England could cover this, in their best form, but this final looks likely to be settled by fine margins. South Africa only lost 12-11 at Twickenham in November and their fiercely strong defence should limit the attacking openings. England still look the outstanding team though, their combination of pace and strength giving them the edge, with a win by up to 12 points the best bet.
Although England's powerful attack has been potent in this tournament, it also looks worth backing a low-scoring final with under 38 points. Tries could be in short supply with two exceptional defensive units competing in the final. The last three meetings between South Africa and England have all seen no more than 35 points scored and, with so much at stake, this final is expected to follow suit.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster
P/L 2019-20 season
Back England to win by 1-12 points at 2.6213/8
Back under 37.5 points @ 10/11 (Sportsbook)