England v South Africa
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England worthy favourites for final
England will face South Africa in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final after their outstanding semi-final win against New Zealand. Eddie Jones' side produced one of the most complete performances in England's history as they dominated the defending champions throughout the entire match. Their 19-7 victory barely does justice to the control England had over the All Blacks.
Their exceptional display has rightfully established England as favourites to win the World Cup for the second time. If England can reproduce this performance, South Africa will be hard pressed to deny them. It appears England are peaking perfectly, with their relentless pace and power too much for both Australia and New Zealand in the knockout stages.
South Africa unlikely to change defensive tactics
South Africa have adopted a different strategy and Rassie Erasmus makes no apology for the direct style of play which has taken them to the final. The Springboks are a hugely powerful physical unit and their forward strength is central to their gameplan. An emphasis on kicking and forcing mistakes from the opposition has been effective, if not easy on the eye.
Handre Pollard has been extremely reliable from the tee and his penalty kicks were crucial in edging them past Wales in an extremely tight semi-final. South Africa's 19-16 win was not a thing of beauty but Erasmus has promised to stick with their approach in the final and there will be no complaints from their fans if it denies England.
Best of the side markets
South Africa were my pre-tournament fancy but there is no doubt England have played the best rugby in this World Cup. The Springboks cannot be discounted but England should be too strong if they can perform to the level seen in their last two matches. Backing a 1.564/7 shot does not appeal though and it is worth looking to alternative markets for bets on the final.
England swarmed all over the All Blacks from the outset to take control and they will look to do the same this weekend in Yokohama. By being aggressive and taking the initiative, England can put South Africa under intense pressure and the favourites are worth backing to score the first try and win. Their positive approach should pay off and England are the more likely first scorers against a limited Springboks team.
Manu Tuilagi has been an influential player in England's run to the final and the outside centre looks a strong contender for man of the match at 12/1. Tuilagi has never looked better in an England shirt and is profiting from being fully fit after a series of injury setbacks. The powerful back has scored three tries in Japan, including his second minute effort against the All Blacks. It would be no surprise if Tuilagi crossed the line again and his physicality, both as an attacker and a tackler, is likely to catch the eye if England lift the Webb Ellis Cup.
Another way of backing England to win is to double it up with under 36.5 points in the final. South Africa are likely to set out with a limited gameplan of forcing England into conceding penalties and this could easily turn into a low-scoring affair. The Springboks' last two knockout ties have seen no more than 35 points scored and this could follow suit. With two of the best defences in world rugby on show, points could be limited in a tight final.
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