England went into the Rugby World Cup final as strong favourites to defeat South Africa, only to go down to a 32-12 defeat in Yokohama.

Eddie Jones' side were stunning winners against New Zealand in the semi-finals, destroying the title ambitions of the mighty defending champions.

That 19-7 triumph set England up for a shot at the Springboks in Saturday's final and they were quickly tagged as firm favourites.

But the South Africa side that edged past Wales to reach the showpiece match defied expectations, with Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe scoring the only tries of the game, as Handre Pollard added 22 points off the tee.

England's shock defeat is one of many notable examples where a highly fancied team has fallen at the last hurdle.

Indeed, history is littered with examples of teams bringing out their best for semi-final matches, only to fall short on the big day.

Here is a look at some of the occasions when sides have not saved their best until last.
 

1987: Rugby World Cup - France stun hosts, surrender to All Blacks

In the days before World Cup semi-finals were automatically played in super stadia, Sydney's modest Concord Oval staged Australia's semi-final against France. A thriller was locked at 24-24 going into the dying moments, with Michael Lynagh having missed kicks to put the game to bed, when a jaw-dropping French attack resulted in Serge Blanco diving in at the left corner for the winning try. France were ecstatic, through to the first World Cup final, but New Zealand were behemoths lying in wait and the Eden Park final was a one-sided affair, the All Blacks powering to a 29-9 victory.

1999: Rugby World Cup - Quelle horreur! France falter at the last again

Jean-Claude Skrela's apparently formidable French swept through the group stage unscathed before dropping 47 points on Argentina and - mon dieu! - demolishing the All Blacks 43-31 in the semi-finals. France scorched back from 24-10 behind to sink the Kiwis in a Twickenham classic, inspired by the brilliant kicking of Christophe Lamaison and the gallivanting Christophe Dominici. Having edged out South Africa a day earlier, the Wallabies had considerably more left in the tank than Les Bleus when it came to the final, Rod Macqueen's men roaring to glory as 35-12 winners on the back of 25 points from the boot of Matt Burke and tries from Ben Tune and Owen Finegan.

2003: Premiership - Twickenham agony for dominant Gloucester

Gloucester looked bankers to be crowned kings of English rugby for the first time, after a stunning 2002-03 regular season saw them finish 15 points clear of distant nearest rivals Wasps at the pinnacle of the Premiership. Nigel Melville's side were far and away the best team over the campaign but then collapsed when it mattered most. The Cherry and Whites went straight into the final, which was the privilege at the time for the table-toppers, with Wasps and third-placed Northampton scuffling it out in a single semi-final for the right to join them. Wasps edged that game and then the side captained by Lawrence Dallaglio defied all logic by thumping Gloucester 39-3 at Twickenham to take the trophy.

2007: Premiership - Cherry and Whites off colour as Tigers pounce

Dean Ryan this time led Gloucester to the top of the Premiership table, albeit only marginally ahead of Leicester, but again there was crushing disappointment around the corner. A seven-try, 50-9 destruction of Saracens in their Kingsholm semi-final pointed to Gloucester being in great shape to gun at glory. At the very least they should have been highly competitive against Leicester in the championship match, so the 44-16 outcome in favour of the Tigers was a baffling outcome. Ryan admitted there was "mismatch.... across the field", while the Guardian memorably described the final as being "like watching field mice fleeing a combine harvester".

2015 Super Rugby: Hurricanes' hopes blown away

Everything was set up for the Hurricanes. They played a supreme regular season, finishing streets ahead of the Super Rugby pack with 14 wins from 16 matches, and after bulldozing the Brumbies 29-9 in the semi-finals they had home advantage at Westpac Stadium in Wellington for the title match. Chris Boyd's team looked nailed on, yet sport is rarely that straightforward. The Highlanders, who had never before won the competition, produced a powerful performance in the final and emerged 21-14 victors, silencing the home support who had showed up for a coronation. As Boyd said: "We were just a little off." And that can be enough in finals, where the switched-on invariably get their reward.

South Africa made history on Saturday after beating England 32-12 in the Rugby World Cup final.

The Springboks had already lifted one trophy this year after winning the Rugby Championship in August, and, in Yokohama, Rassie Erasmus' team achieved something that had eluded rivals New Zealand and Australia in the past.

In the previous five years when there has been both a Rugby Championship – or its previous incarnation the Tri Nations – and a World Cup, the winners of the first tournament had subsequently failed to also deliver success on the global stage.

South Africa succeeded where these teams failed...
 

1999: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA

The All Blacks won the first two Tri Nations and made it three in four years by thrashing South Africa 28-0, beating Australia 34-15 and claiming another victory over the Springboks.

However, a 28-7 loss to the Wallabies in the final fixture suggested New Zealand were not so invincible...

At the World Cup, the great Jonah Lomu scored eight tries yet France stunned New Zealand 43-31 in the last four, with Australia then winning the final against Les Bleus.

2003: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – ENGLAND

Four wins out of four delivered another Tri Nations triumph for New Zealand.

The All Blacks scored 282 points in their four World Cup pool games in Australia too before easing past South Africa 29-9 in the quarter-finals.

But Elton Flatley's accuracy from the tee consigned New Zealand to another semi-final loss and sent Australia back to the final, where Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal in Sydney delivered a famous success for England.

2007: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – SOUTH AFRICA

Neither Australia nor South Africa could deny the All Blacks another Tri Nations title in 2007, though it was a Northern Hemisphere nation who would stop their run at the World Cup.

New Zealand led 13-3 in the first half of their quarter-final against France only to suffer another knockout loss to their World Cup nemesis as Yannick Jauzion scored a brilliant converted try 11 minutes from time to seal a 20-18 success.

Defending champions England beat France in the semi-final but Percy Montgomery won the battle of the boots with Wilkinson in the final as South Africa secured their second World Cup.

2011: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

In the final Tri Nations before Argentina joined to form the Rugby Championship, Graham Henry's team lost their last two matches as Australia triumphed for the first time in a decade.

The World Cup was hosted in New Zealand and after years of being the nearly men, it was the All Blacks' turn to taste global glory again.

France were their final opponents and, in a tense, low-scoring contest, New Zealand won 8-7.

2015: RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

Four years ago, Australia beat the other three nations to win the Rugby Championship, and came out on top of a World Cup pool that included Wales and hosts England.

The Wallabies narrowly saw off Scotland 35-34 and ousted Argentina 29-15 to set up a final with a New Zealand side that had hammered France 62-13 in the last eight.

No team had ever retained the World Cup before but Dan Carter shone on his international farewell to ensure Steve Hansen's side lifted the Webb Ellis Cup again.

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez will be following in the footsteps of some of the most famous names in boxing history when he challenges Sergey Kovalev for the WBO light-heavyweight title.

Mexican Alvarez is already a three-weight world champion but will be moving into the unknown when he fights at the 175-pound limit for the first time on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The 29-year-old was last in action at middleweight, defeating Daniel Jacobs via a unanimous decision on the scorecards to add the IBF title to the WBA and WBC versions already in his possession.

Now, though, he is climbing two divisions to face 'Krusher' Kovalev. Will Canelo cope against the Russian, or has he bitten off more than he can chew in the hope of growing his legacy?

Alvarez is not the first notable fighter to take the giant leap from the middle(weight) - and history tells us skill can make up for the size difference.

 

RAY ROBINSON

Wherever 'Sugar' Ray sits in your all-time list – and plenty would put him right at the top – there is no doubting his stellar resume. He built his reputation at welterweight and middleweight, reeling off a 91-fight winning streak at one stage in a career that spanned three different decades. After knocking out another great in Rocky Graziano in April 1952, Robinson returned to the ring just over four months later to fight light-heavyweight champion Joey Maxim. The move, however, was unsuccessful. After controlling the early stages, the challenger wilted in the New York sunshine at Yankee Stadium, eventually retiring on his stool with exhaustion after the 13th round.

THOMAS HEARNS

'The Hitman' fought in six different divisions, winning world titles in five of them. He is perhaps best remembered for his rivalry with 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, the pair first meeting in a unification bout at welterweight that was named Ring Magazine's fight of the year in 1981. Leonard won by stoppage in the 14th round on that occasion, while the long-awaited rematch eight years later ended in a draw at super-middleweight. Hearns carried on climbing up the divisions after that bout, going on to be crowned WBA champion at light-heavyweight when he out-pointed Virgil Hill. His reign was brief - the American lost to Iran Barkley via a split-decision verdict in his next outing.

RAY LEONARD

Leonard, along with Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran, was a member of boxing's 'Fabulous Four' during a golden age. 'Sugar' Ray twice retired - the first time following eye surgery to repair a detached retina - but his second comeback began with a daring challenge for the WBC light-heavyweight strap against Don Lalonde. There was a twist, however, with the governing body also putting their newly created super-middle belt up for grabs. Lalonde had to drop down to fight at 168 pounds; despite scoring an early knockdown, he was stopped in the ninth round.

ROY JONES

Forget the final stages of Jones' career - the Floridian was considered unbeatable in his pomp, becoming the first former middleweight champion to climb all the way to the top and win a world title in 106 years when he prevailed against John Ruiz in March 2003. Along the way, Jones had a lengthy stop at light-heavy, where he suffered his first career loss when disqualified for striking Montell Griffin while his opponent was down on one knee. He also dropped back down after beating WBA champion Ruiz, though his aura was shattered with three successive losses, two of them to Antonio Tarver.

BERNARD HOPKINS

The evergreen Hopkins lost his professional debut at light-heavyweight back in 1988, but initially rose to prominence as a middleweight, where he claimed the IBF belt at the third attempt. 'The Alien' kept on going through to 2016, the twilight of his career spent at the 175-pound limit. There were world titles along the way but also some forgettable fights, including a lopsided points reverse against Kovalev. Eventually, even Hopkins was unable to keep Father Time at bay, suffering a painful stoppage defeat - the first of his career - to Joe Smith Jr at the age of 51.

Sergey Kovalev defends his WBO light-heavyweight crown against pound-for-pound superstar Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez this weekend.

Kovalev is enjoying his third stint as a world champion in the 175lbs category, having been a dominant force in the division for a large chunk of the past decade.

By contrast, Alvarez is stepping into unknown territory as he moves up from middleweight in an attempt to become a four-weight world champion.

Whoever emerges victorious in Las Vegas on Saturday will be able to point to a win that significantly enhances their reputation and legacy.

Here, we look a three factors that could lead each man to glory.

SAUL ALVAREZ - KEYS TO VICTORY

Body shots

Canelo's economical counter-punching style means he is hardly the archetypal Mexican boxer, but his potent body attacks bear comparison to the finest his country has produced. Kovalev was hurt to the body in his losses to Andre Ward and against Anthony Yarde last time out. Canelo's technical proficiency to take advantage of this chink in the armour is likely to have caused plenty of consternation for Team Kovalev.

Cut off the ring

Earlier in his career, most glaringly in his sole loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2013, Alvarez's footwork appeared a plodding weakness against the very best. Over the intervening six years, however, Canelo's feet are his most improved asset. He frequently out-manoeuvred Gennady Golovkin during 24 titanic rounds and he must be sharp in this department to offset Kovalev's physical advantages and set up those body assaults.

Stay busy

Canelo boasts plenty of impressive wins over the championship distance, but a glance at the scorecards from wins over Golovkin, Erislandy Lara and Daniel Jacobs show plenty of scorecards returned in the region of 116-112 and 115-113. Alvarez typically takes portions of rounds off and selectively decides when to catch the judges' eyes. These are priceless traits to have mastered at world level but the threat of Kovalev's punch power means taking the odd round - or even minute - off might be fraught with danger on this occasion.

SERGEY KOVALEV -  KEYS TO VICTORY

The jab

Unusually for a man who sprung to prominence as a bludgeoning knockout artist, Kovalev's best punch remains a left lead thrown with intelligent authority and, of course, no little power. The shot saw him through the other side of choppy waters against Yarde and ultimately finished off his exhausted foe. Golovkin's jab caused Alvarez plenty of problems and that should be a huge source of encouragement to Kovalev.

Power and size

Youth, speed, punch variety, defence, age, recent form – Canelo certainly has plenty of factors in his favour for this blockbuster. It means Kovalev must make his natural attributes count early and often, persuading the Mexican from slipping into his desired rhythm of pot shots and counter-punching. Alvarez's chin stood up to Golovkin's best punches superbly; Kovalev must convince him being caught flush by a career light-heavyweight is an even more sickening proposition

Listen to Buddy

Following back-to-back losses to Ward and a shock stoppage defeat against Eleider Alvarez, Kovalev's time among the elite looked to be over. Joining up with esteemed trainer Buddy McGirt has proved an inspired move. In an immediate rematch, Kovalev parked the macho schtick in favour of refined boxing to regain his WBO belt via a wide points decision. There could be a temptation to try and bulldoze the smaller Canelo early but McGirt's tactical tweaking of the Kovalev style means this is unlikely to be part of the plan.

With another slate of games set for Sunday, we take a look at all that is happening around the league. 

From a few injury updates to a rookie getting his first NFL start, we cover it all in this edition of NFL news and notes.

Three things that matter Dwayne Haskins to make first NFL start

It is official. Dwayne Haskins, selected by the Washington Redskins with the number 15 pick out of the 2019 draft, will make his first NFL start on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Washington interim coach Bill Callahan announced on Friday that Haskins would get the nod, with Colt McCoy serving as the backup while Case Keenum remains in the concussion protocol.

"We're really excited about Dwayne's opportunity," Callahan said. "Young quarterback going up against one of the top three defences in the league. It'll be a great challenge for him. Good learning experience. Great challenge for all of us to pull together and rally around Dwayne and go out there and compete against a top team in the AFC East."

However, Callahan would not reveal whether Haskins will remain the starter going forward, but the team has been "very encouraged" by his progress.

Cam Newton's season could be in jeopardy

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is going to need a bit more time before he is ready to return from a foot injury, casting his season into doubt.

Newton travelled to Green Bay on Friday to visit foot specialist Dr Robert Anderson. Carolina ruled Newton out of its Week 9 home game against the Tennessee Titans earlier this week.

"I spent a long time speaking with Cam this week and he's done everything he possibly can in his rehab process to get his foot to 100 percent," general manager Marty Hurney said in a team release. "Unfortunately, we haven't reached that point. The next step is for him to go see Dr. Anderson and gather more information."

While the team's update did not offer any sort of timetable for Newton's return, NFL Media reported "playing football is a long way off" for the quarterback.

Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton could miss 3-4 weeks

T.Y. Hilton has been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a calf injury and he is expected to miss even more time. 

Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich announced on Friday that Hilton is likely to miss three to four weeks as he recovers from an injury suffered during Wednesday's practice. 

Hilton was in a walking boot on Thursday and did not practice with the team, though the injury is not considered to be significant. 

Two things that don't matter 49ers tight end George Kittle played through injury 

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle finished Thursday's victory over the Arizona Cardinals with six catches for 79 receiving yards and one touchdown , but it was not without some pain. 

Coach Kyle Shanahan revealed after the game that Kittle was not only dealing with knee pain, but also an ankle injury and a nagging groin issue.

Kittle was injured on the first play of the game when he appeared to bang his knee on Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones in the backfield. He stayed down before walking to the team's medical tent for further evaluation and went to the bench instead of the locker room.

Despite his injury, Kittle still managed to score an impressive tying touchdown on a 30-yard reception just before the end of the first quarter. 

Cardinals cut Alfred Morris

The Cardinals are cutting running back Alfred Morris after just a week-plus stint, coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed. 

The move comes after Kenyan Drake had a strong performance against the 49ers on Thursday and as David Johnson (ankle) and Chase Edmonds (hamstring) are nearing a return at running back.

Morris was inactive against the New Orleans Saints last week, but played on Thursday while Johnson and Edmonds were out. The veteran will hit waivers and become a free agent if he goes unclaimed.

One video you have to see

Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins spoke about his excitement for playing at Wembley Stadium in London. 

Friday's tweet of the day

Antonio Brown has not stopped tweeting yet.

He took to Twitter on Friday to share the key card he received from the New England Patriots, which has his first name misspelled. He added the hashtags "Boomin" and "Disrespect."

Another football season is in full swing and a new edition of Football Manager is right around the corner following its beta release on Thursday.

The classic football management simulator is set for full release on November 19, but you can get early access to the beta version – which may contain bugs and issues developers Sports Interactive still need to fix – if you pre-purchase the game.

Therefore, it's time to start thinking about which club you might want to take the reins of. However, with playable leagues in over 50 countries, such a decision can often feel a little daunting.

Do you fancy yourself as a miracle worker who can take a tiny club to the Champions League final? Want to test yourself with a newly promoted side in a top league? Or how about managing an established club amid a rebuild?

Whichever's your preference, we've identified six clubs we can't wait to leave our mark on...


Norwich City - Premier League

Football Manager and developing young players go hand-in-hand, so Norwich City will surely be the first port of call for many. With Emi Buendia, Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis and Ben Godfrey, the Canaries have one of the strongest sets of young players in the Premier League, having returned after three years in the Championship. They've also attracted significant praise for their stylish brand of football under Daniel Farke over the past couple of years, something you might aim to emulate. Avoiding relegation will be the target, but their talent gives them a real platform to build on.


Stuttgart - 2.Bundesliga

A former Bundesliga-winning outfit that have fallen on hard times, Stuttgart suffered relegation to the second tier for the second time in four seasons in 2018-19. Last time, they bounced back at the first attempt - and they have the talent to do so again, given they managed to keep the likes of Santiago Ascacibar and Nicolas Gonzalez. The German club have a strong fanbase, massive stadium, history and a well-regarded academy. If you can steer them back on track, you could potentially awaken a sleeping giant.
 

Salford City - League Two

Backed by the wealthy Peter Lim and the Class of '92 crew and into the Football League for the first time in their history, Salford City represent an intriguing option in Football Manager 2020, particularly if you like the idea of taking a club from the lower leagues to the top but want a little helping hand at the start. There are few – if any – small clubs in England with comparable potential.


Paris FC - Ligue 2

That's right, France's capital has another club. Formed due to a split from Paris-Saint Germain in the early 1970s, Paris FC's history is rather less glamorous than their world-famous, Qatar-backed neighbours. They have yet to return to the top flight since their relegation in 1978-79, but last season's fourth-placed finish in Ligue 2 showed promise, even if they lost to Lens in the promotion play-offs. With €7million being poured into their facilities and the fact they're located in a city drowning in young talent, it might be a risky job to take but the rewards could be glorious. Their position at the foot of the table with eight points from 12 games in real life proves you might have your work cut out, however.
 

Sevilla - LaLiga

Revered sporting director Monchi is back at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and, after two years of relative underachievement in his absence, Sevilla's squad has been truly ripped up. Thirteen new players – including highly rated Jules Kounde and Rony Lopes – have arrived and eight departed on permanent deals. Several others left on loan, yet it's still a squad bursting at the seams, meaning there's potential to build up a decent budget as well. European football should ensure you still attract decent additions, while the club's academy is well-regarded. But with so much upheaval, is Champions League football a bridge too far? Because that'll be your target.


FC Andorra - Segunda B3

Although they should be competing in Spain's Tercera Division, FC Andorra – yes, from the country of the same name, as opposed to Spain – find themselves in Segunda B for the first time since the 1990s. Bought by Gerard Pique last December, the club paid a substantial fee to take the place of Reus in the third tier after they were relegated two divisions for failing to pay player wages. Getting out of Segunda B is a notoriously arduous task given there are only four promotion spots between 80 teams in four groups of 20, but defying such odds might be the challenge some desire.

Kieran Read's international career came to an end on Friday, as the New Zealand captain led the All Blacks to a 40-17 triumph over Wales in the Rugby World Cup bronze match.

Having announced his decision to retire from Test rugby in March, Read would have been hoping to go out on a high by taking his side to an unprecedented third successive World Cup triumph.

However, a semi-final defeat at the hands of England – who will face South Africa for the Webb Ellis Cup on Saturday – meant Read had to settle for third place on his swansong.

Here, with the help of Opta, we take a look at some of the best facts from a glittering career.

127 - Read's 127 caps for the All Blacks place him third in New Zealand history. His predecessor as captain, Richie McCaw, tops the list on 148.

52 - Read played 52 of his Tests as skipper and was the 66th captain of the side. Only McCaw (110) made more appearances as captain of the All Blacks.

148 - New Zealand's skipper has made 148 carries in World Cups, the eighth-most of any player in the tournament’s history. Fifty of those carries came in the 2019 tournament.

5 - Read (107 wins) is one of only five players to win 100 Test matches, along with fellow All Blacks McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Sam Whitelock.

19 - His run of 19 consecutive victories as All Blacks captain from 2012 to 2016 is a record.

26 - McCaw is the only forward from a tier-one nation to have scored more international tries than Read, shading it by 27 to 26.

157 - Read has made 157 tackles in World Cup action, the sixth-most of any player in the tournament's history.

69 - His tally of 69 tackles during New Zealand's 2019 World Cup campaign was the most of any All Blacks player. He also made 20 during his final appearance against Wales - his previous best in a World Cup game was 14 against Ireland in the quarter-finals.

6 - With six assists, Read has set up more tries than any other forward in World Cups, while he also scored three tries of his own in his appearances at the global tournament.

The Rugby World Cup final is upon us. England and South Africa will face off in Yokohama on Saturday, with the winner lifting the Webb Ellis Cup.

Both sides have enjoyed fantastic runs to this stage, with England winning every match they have played at the finals and dominating two-time defending champions New Zealand in the last four.

The Springboks were beaten by the All Blacks in their opening match but have recovered in impressive fashion, closing on a third title.

With the help of Opta data, we look at the key numbers ahead of what promises to be an enthralling final between two worthy winners.
 

2 - England have won back-to-back Tests against South Africa, but their record against the Springboks had previously been nothing to shout about. They managed just one victory in their prior 15 meetings.

33 - Eddie Jones' team will need to be at it from the off on Saturday. South Africa having gone on to win 33 of their 35 World Cup matches in which they have led at the break.

89 - Owen Farrell needs just 11 points to become the second player to reach 100 World Cup points for England after Jonny Wilkinson, who accumulated 277.

0 - South Africa won the previous two World Cup finals they appeared in, but both victories came without either side scoring a try.

1 - If England beat Rassie Erasmus' side, they will become the first team to beat Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in a single World Cup campaign.

407 - Springbok Damian de Allende is one of only three players to have played more minutes at this tournament than England duo Elliot Daly and Tom Curry, who have each clocked up 400.

3 - The sides have previously met four times in the World Cup, with South Africa coming out on top in three of those matches. Their most recent World Cup meeting came in the 2007 final, which the Springboks won 15-6.

140 - Handre Pollard has scored more points at a World Cup than any other South Africa player, although he is yet to score a try in the competition.

50 - Siya Kolisi is set to earn his 50th Test cap and his 20th as Springboks captain.

98 - South Africa have the best lineout success rate of any side at this World Cup, having only lost one, which came in their semi-final win over Wales.

4 - This will be England's fourth appearance in the final, a joint record alongside Australia and the All Blacks.

27 - Jonny May needs one more try to equal Jason Robinson on 28 for England, the joint-fifth most for England. He has four in six appearances against the Springboks.

Sergey Kovalev will contest the 17th consecutive world title bout of a decorated career on Saturday in Las Vegas when he squares off against pound-for-pound superstar Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez.

While unified middleweight king Alvarez is stepping up two weight classes in a bid to become a four-weight world champion, the 175lbs light-heavyweight ranks have been Kovalev's domain for much of the past decade.

The 36-year-old is currently in possession of the WBO portion of the title, a belt he first got his hands on more than six years ago.

Canelo will arguably present a challenge unlike anything Kovalev has had to reckon with over the course of a 38-fight career but, as the triumphs below show, his combination of classic skills and chilling power usually find the answer.

 

NATHAN CLEVERLY (2013, TKO 4)

An emphatic breakout performance away from home earned Kovalev his first world title as he battered Cleverly, then one of British boxing's brightest stars, to a fourth-round loss. The champion's home crowd in Cardiff were stunned as he wilted under a relentless assault, going down twice in the third before referee Terry O'Connor waved it off in the next session.

BLAKE CAPARELLO (2014, TKO 2)

The third defence of his WBO crown was supposed to be a formality as a huge unification clash lay in wait, but unheralded southpaw Caparello landed a solid left that made Kovalev touch down in round one. The response was brutal – the Australian taking a knee after being sapped by a straight right to the body and Kovalev dumped him down twice more in the neutral corner to bring an early close.

BERNARD HOPKINS (2014, UD 12)

Hopkins defied age and most sane conceptions of normality when he dominated Beibut Shumenov to unify the WBA and IBF light-heavyweight titles at the age of 49. That set up a meeting with Kovalev for three of the four major titles and the younger, more powerful man ensured the all-time great finally ran out of road. Kovalev dropped Hopkins heavily with a right hook in the opener and proceeded to win every round on all three scorecards.

JEAN PASCAL (2015, TKO 8)

Kovalev's reputation as a fearsome puncher, one backed up by a considerable weight of evidence by this stage of his career, contributed to plenty of one-sided beatdowns. More of the same looked to be on the cards in round three of his initial meeting with Pascal, who was repeatedly staggered and knocked halfway through the ropes in the third.

The Canadian roared back, thrillingly fighting fire with fire and putting Kovalev on the retreat, only for the champion to grind him down with straight, hurtful shots. A pair of withering right hooks resulted in a stoppage, although Pascal did enough to earn the dubious consolation of a rematch, staged the following year.

ELEIDER ALVAREZ (2019, UD 12)

Andre Ward handed Kovalev the first defeat of his career before stopping him in the rematch, crushing an aura in the process. A further loss to Eleider Alvarez appeared to spell the end, although a switch of trainer to Buddy McGirt proved inspired. Kovalev went back to basics and boxed off his imperious jab to win a wide decision in the return.

Pound-for-pound superstar Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez will attempt to join the rarefied ranks of boxing's four-weight world champions when he faces WBO light-heavyweight king Sergey Kovalev in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Alvarez stepped up to take out an over-matched Rocky Fielding and win the WBA super-middleweight title last December before reverting to his more natural home of the middleweight division.

That is where the 29-year-old Mexican's long-term future is expected to lie regardless of the weekend outcome, although victory over the ageing but still-fearsome Kovalev would have to rank among his finest accomplishments.

Here, we look back at some of Canelo's best nights in the ring.

 

JAMES KIRKLAND (2015, KO 3)

James Kirkland had been dubbed a 'mini Mike Tyson' before he came face to face with Canelo. Erislandy Lara worked Alvarez hard in his prior fight 10 months beforehand, but the Mexican was back in top form at Minute Maid Park, Houston. Kirkland was first knocked down with a right in the opening round and lasted only until the third before another spectacular blow sent him crashing over and stopped the fight early.

MIGUEL COTTO (2015, UD 12)

After taking out Kirkland, Miguel Cotto and the WBC middleweight title were next on Canelo's list. The judges' scores - 117-111, 118-110 and 119-109 - had Alvarez the clear winner as he claimed the belt from the in-form Puerto Rican, landing a big win for Mexico after a complete performance in which Cotto was out-thought and out-fought.

JULIO CESAR CHAVEZ JR (2017, UD 12)

A huge fight for Mexico saw compatriots Canelo and Chavez do battle on the 2017 Cinco de Mayo weekend. Victory secured the bragging rights for Canelo and it never looked in doubt, his opponent schooled and scarcely landing a punch as all three judges called the fight 120-108 in a simple points decision.

GENNADY GOLOVKIN (2018, MD 12)

This was a victory long in the making. Canelo and Golovkin had battled to an entertaining draw a year earlier, before a rematch was put on hold as Alvarez served a six-month ban for failing a drugs test. Despite many observers judging it differently, Canelo was awarded a majority decision after 12 rounds.

DANNY JACOBS (2019, UD 12)

After dispatching Fielding, Alvarez underlined his status as the world's premier middleweight with a 12-round win over the accomplished Jacobs. Although plenty of the sessions were competitive and the scores rightly close, there was none of the controversy that followed Canelo's verdicts against Golovkin after the Mexican built up an early lead in a well-rounded display.

England and South Africa are tantalisingly close to glory as they prepare to face off in the Rugby World Cup final.

Ahead of Saturday's much-anticipated showdown in Yokohama, we asked Lewis Moody - a World Cup winner with England in 2003 and a losing finalist against the Springboks four years later - to talk us through what it will take to emerge victorious in rugby's biggest game.

Here is the former flanker's guide to securing World Cup success.

 

'HOW DO YOU KEEP THOSE EMOTIONS IN CHECK?' - GETTING THE MINDSET RIGHT

Players from both sides will try to prepare for the contest as if it is any other game, although Moody acknowledges this is "easier said than done".

"Everyone, including the players, knows what's at stake," said Moody, speaking on behalf of Land Rover, Official Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019.

"The hardest thing is keeping your energy in check so you don't burn yourself out, whether that's through anxiety, nerves or excitement. You can sort of play the game in your head and then your body has emotionally played it already. So you've got to keep that composure and unleash it at the start of the game. 

"You have to figure out what works for you, how do you keep those emotions in check? For me, it was going to the cinema the night before a game, completely switching my brain off from anything rugby-related and just having a laugh.

"All the work has been done, you know all the moves, you're fit. It's just about figuring out what mindset you need to be in to deliver on that day and for me it was about being as relaxed as possible. Each player prepares in a different way - and just allowing them to do what's normal for them is key."

 

'FIGHTING A BATTLE IN YOUR OWN BRAIN' - THE AGONY OF THE FINAL HOURS BEFORE KICK-OFF

If the days leading up to the game are tense, the final hours in the lead-up to kick-off present the toughest mental challenge of all.

"Without doubt the worst part for me was the evening before and then the morning of [the game], because that's when the anxiety [is at its highest]," explained Moody.

"You're in your room, all you're thinking about is preparing for the game. Have you got your kit bag ready? Have you got your tracksuit and everything you're going to be wearing? Is it the right stuff? Have you got a spare pair of boots in case one breaks, a spare gumshield? It's just going through this list of things and then going to sleep and hoping you actually get some.

"You just want that time to disappear; you want to be on the pitch. Your comfort zone is when you've crossed that white line and you're right into the thick of it doing what you know. Up until then you can't control anything and your body is just playing tricks.

"Your mind is trying to maintain all those positive moments, the impacts you want to have, but the other half of your mind is allowing the gremlins to creep in. You don't want to be the person who makes the mistake [that costs your team the game]. So you're fighting a battle in your own brain until you cross that white line. That's when it all relaxes and your body just goes into doing what it does, that muscle memory takes over and life becomes simple."
 

'ULTIMATELY IT WILL COME DOWN TO DISCIPLINE'

Amid heightened emotions, maintaining discipline looks sure to be vital, while Moody also feels much will depend on whether South Africa can deny England quick ball at the breakdown.

"Ultimately it will come down to discipline, because it's going to be a tightly fought game," he argued.

"The key for me will be the speed of ball that the forwards can get for the backs and that will come down to the breakdown. New Zealand, for whatever reason, swapped Sam Cane out [in the semi-final] and it meant England had free rein at the breakdown, really. We also had 19 turnovers against the All Blacks, which is an unprecedented number. 

"I think having Tom Curry and Sam Underhill there, who clearly haven't been phased by any of the players they've played against or any of the occasions - if they can boss that breakdown and keep England's momentum going, then that will be decisive.

"They're going to be coming up against some serious units in the South African backline, in [Siya] Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and [Duane] Vermeulen, who will be doing their utmost to impose themselves on that English triumvirate. It will be a fascinating contest and there's no way in my mind South Africa will allow England the same speed of ball and momentum that they gained on Saturday [in their semi-final win over the All Blacks]."

 

'ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS TURN UP AND DELIVER IN THOSE 80 MINUTES'

England could hardly have performed better in their last-four victory over defending champions New Zealand, as they mixed a stunning defensive display with a slick and composed attacking performance to secure a 19-7 win.

Yet Moody, a veteran of 74 Tests between 2001 and 2011 including three for the British and Irish Lions, does not feel Eddie Jones' side will necessarily need to deliver the same all-round showing on Saturday. 

"It's not about delivering the same performance. It's about delivering the performance that is necessary to beat this opposition," he said.

"Last weekend it was that type of rugby, this week it might be drop goals, penalties, a hard-fought forward battle. It's about doing what it takes to win the match that's in front of you.

"The reality of a final is its one game, all you have to do is turn up and deliver in those 80 minutes. And that's where it can all change.

"We saw it in 2011. New Zealand were far and away the best side in the world that year and yet they only beat France by one point. All of a sudden the pressure and the anxiety came on. Even in '03 we should have beaten Australia by 15-20 points really with the opportunities we had - it just shows how pressure can get to you some times."

 

--- Land Rover is an Official Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019.  With over 20 years of heritage supporting rugby at all levels, Land Rover is celebrating what makes rugby, rugby. #LandRoverRugby ---

South Africa stand on the brink of making history when they face England in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final.

The Springboks have already lifted one trophy this year after winning the Rugby Championship in August, and Rassie Erasmus' team are looking to do something that has eluded rivals New Zealand and Australia in the past.

In the previous five years when there has been both a Rugby Championship – or its previous incarnation the Tri Nations – and a World Cup, the winners of the first tournament have subsequently failed to also deliver success on the global stage.

With South Africa in a position to finally end that sequence, we take a look at those who have previously conquered the Southern Hemisphere only to fall short at the World Cup.

 

1999: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA

The All Blacks won the first two Tri Nations and made it three in four years by thrashing South Africa 28-0, beating Australia 34-15 and claiming another victory over the Springboks.

However, a 28-7 loss to the Wallabies in the final fixture suggested New Zealand were not so invincible...

At the World Cup, the great Jonah Lomu scored eight tries yet France stunned New Zealand 43-31 in the last four, with Australia then winning the final against Les Bleus.

2003: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – ENGLAND

Four wins out of four delivered another Tri Nations triumph for New Zealand.

The All Blacks scored 282 points in their four World Cup pool games in Australia too before easing past South Africa 29-9 in the quarter-finals.

But Elton Flatley's accuracy from the tee consigned New Zealand to another semi-final loss and sent Australia back to the final, where Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal in Sydney delivered a famous success for England.

2007: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND, WORLD CUP WINNERS – SOUTH AFRICA

Neither Australia nor South Africa could deny the All Blacks another Tri Nations title in 2007, though it was a Northern Hemisphere nation who would stop their run at the World Cup.

New Zealand led 13-3 in the first half of their quarter-final against France only to suffer another knockout loss to their World Cup nemesis as Yannick Jauzion scored a brilliant converted try 11 minutes from time to seal a 20-18 success.

Defending champions England beat France in the semi-final but Percy Montgomery won the battle of the boots with Wilkinson in the final as South Africa secured their second World Cup.

2011: TRI NATIONS WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

In the final Tri Nations before Argentina joined to form the Rugby Championship, Graham Henry's team lost their last two matches as Australia triumphed for the first time in a decade.

The World Cup was hosted in New Zealand and after years of being the nearly men, it was the All Blacks' turn to taste global glory again.

France were their final opponents and, in a tense, low-scoring contest, New Zealand won 8-7.

2015: RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS – AUSTRALIA, WORLD CUP WINNERS – NEW ZEALAND

Four years ago, Australia beat the other three nations to win the Rugby Championship, and came out on top of a World Cup pool that included Wales and hosts England.

The Wallabies narrowly saw off Scotland 35-34 and ousted Argentina 29-15 to set up a final with a New Zealand side that had hammered France 62-13 in the last eight.

No team had ever retained the World Cup before but Dan Carter shone on his international farewell to ensure Steve Hansen's side lifted the Webb Ellis Cup again.

Arsenal desperately need a positive result against Wolves if they are to draw a line under a tumultuous week at Emirates Stadium, but Nuno Espirito Santo's men have a strong record against the top flight's 'big six'.

The Gunners have been reeling since they squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Crystal Palace in a game that saw Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka booed by his own supporters, and the visibly angry Switzerland international cupped his ear to the disgruntled crowd as he left the field.

The result left Arsenal winless in two league games and facing something of a crisis of leadership as they prepare to face Wolves, who arrive in north London unbeaten in their last five league matches.

Last season's FA Cup semi-finalists have conceded just three goals in that time, and Arsenal need only look at the champions to learn about the threat they pose - it is less than a month since Wolves stunned Manchester City at Etihad Stadium, Adama Traore scoring two late goals in a 2-0 victory.

All eyes will be on Xhaka, should he play, as fifth-placed Arsenal seek to stave off the challenge of five teams within three points of them in the Premier League table.

EMERY MUST FIND MEN WHO CAN GO THE DISTANCE

Unai Emery has rotated his Arsenal midfield continuously this season and he has no shortage of match-fit replacements for Xhaka should he opt to leave his under-fire playmaker out against Wolves.

Lucas Torreira and Joe Willock have both played deep-lying midfield roles in recent matches and Emery may opt to trust one of them alongside Matteo Guendouzi in what is likely to be a high-octane battle in the middle of the park.

Nuno likes to pack the middle of his midfield in away games and the combination of Leander Dendoncker, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho helped Wolves come from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Newcastle United last time out.

That game followed a familiar pattern for Wolves, who have conceded the first goal in more Premier League matches (seven) than any other side this season, though they have come back to draw five of those games.

While the average time Arsenal take to score their first goal in Premier League matches is 39 minutes, Wolves take an average of 61 minutes to find the net.

Twice in league games this season Arsenal have led by more than one goal only to draw 2-2. As they go up against the division's comeback specialists, they can ill afford to slip up again.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: GRANIT XHAKA V RUBEN NEVES

Having left him out of the rollercoaster EFL Cup defeat to Liverpool at Anfield, Emery has a big decision to make about whether to recall the much-maligned Xhaka.

Gunners greats Ian Wright, Nigel Winterburn and Emmanuel Petit have been among the many to condemn his actions but a return to the XI has not been ruled out.

Should he get the nod, Xhaka could win back some favour with supporters by getting the better of Neves in a key midfield battle.

The pair operate in similar roles to vastly differing degrees of adulation, even as the Opta data portrays Wolves star Neves as generally less effective than the Arsenal skipper.

Xhaka has created four more scoring chances, registered three more tackles and provided three more blocks in the Premier League this season despite playing one game less.

He has additionally contested 33 more duels at a superior success rate and his passing accuracy of 86.54 per cent is comfortably in advance of Neves' 75.45 per cent.

However, the Portuguese former Porto man can lay claim to having made seven more interceptions than Xhaka, a skill that will prove useful as the visitors attempt to stymie their opponents' play in north London.

FORM GUIDE: WOLVES IN CAPITAL MOOD

The prospect of a trip to London will not daunt Wolves, who have not lost a Premier League match in the capital since March 2012, when Fulham thumped them 5-0.

They have won three and drawn four of their seven subsequent matches in the city, and their recent form has been good no matter where they play.

Nuno's men have scored in each of their last nine Premier League games and could set a club record in the competition by finding the net on Saturday. Only table-topping Liverpool (19) are on a longer current goal-scoring run in the competition.

Arsenal must make the most of early opportunities, given that Wolves have scored a league-high 85 per cent of their Premier League goals in the second half of games this season (11/13), and Emery will take heart from his side's imperious home record on Saturday afternoons.

Arsenal have not lost at home at this time on a Saturday since the opening day of the 2013-14 season (1-3 vs Aston Villa), winning 20 and drawing two since then.

Goals are rarely in short supply at the Emirates, where Arsenal have scored in each of their last 23 league games, but the Gunners have kept just one clean sheet in their last seven.

HISTORY SAYS...

Arsenal have faced Wolves 10 times in the Premier League, breezing to consecutive victories in their first six matches against them in the competition.

Since then, however, they have won just one of their last four (D2, L1) and they failed to win either of their clashes with Nuno's newly promoted side in 2018-19.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan rescued a point for the Gunners in this fixture last season, scoring an 86th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw, and Wolves were 3-1 winners when the sides met at Molineux in April.

That victory ended a run of 16 league games without victory against the Gunners and another win on Saturday would see Wolves recording consecutive top-flight wins against them for the first time since September 1979 (a run of three).

We are edging closer to the release of Football Manager 2020 on November 19, meaning new elements and features of the game are seeing the light of day.

That also means talk of those precious 'wonderkids' is starting, as managers look to get a head start on which young talents to snap up early instead of forking out massive sums for the same kids a few years down the line.

A player's potential is never a guarantee of future success. Injuries, a lack of faith from the manager or poor mentality can cause havoc with so-called 'hot prospects'.

Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes, Jadon Sancho and Kai Havertz are all 'wonderkid' certainties, but only a select few clubs will ever be able to afford them.

But, with the right guidance, the following lesser-known players could prove to be similarly smart acquisitions and cost significantly less...

Dillon Hoogewerf - Manchester United

A 16-year-old forward, Hoogewerf was one of the hottest prospects in Ajax's academy before Manchester United snapped him up ahead of this season. A silky dribbler and all-round attacking threat, he promises to be a talent would-be United bosses will want to focus on the development of. On the flipside, youngsters don't always reach their potential at the biggest clubs, meaning he might prove an interesting option to smaller sides… if you're patient.

Pedrinho - Corinthians

The latest - after Vinicius and Rodrygo - in a long line of Brazilian talents to be dubbed the 'next Neymar', Pedrinho looks destined for the top. An outrageously skilful attacker who usually plays out wide for Corinthians, the 21-year-old likes to come in off the right flank and on to his left foot, as he relishes a shot after beating his man. Comparisons with Arjen Robben are understandable, but the quicker you make a move, the less you'll have to stump up.

Sandro Tonali - Brescia

Given Tonali now has a full season of professional football under his belt, he's likely to be one of the hardest to attain from this list. Nevertheless, he is still at Brescia despite links with the big Italian clubs, therefore making him a tantalising proposition if you've got a bit of a budget to play with. Dubbed the 'next Andrea Pirlo', Tonali is a deep-lying midfielder who possesses a brilliant range of passing. He will also be among the very best teenagers right at the start of the game.

Antonio Marin - Dinamo Zagreb

A favourite of many on FM19 due to his immense potential and relatively low cost, left-winger Marin should still be a hot prospect and fairly attainable. He made seven league appearances for Dinamo last season, most of them coming in the final few months of the campaign, so his fee is unlikely to have rocketed just yet. Securing the 18-year-old in a deal that sees him remain in Croatia on loan for a season could be wise for his development, particularly if Dani Olmo is sold in the first few months of the game.

Devyne Rensch - Ajax

As you might expect from an Ajax academy product, Rensch is calm and composed in possession and a fine reader of the game from centre-back. He has already signed professional terms despite being only 16, so you won't be able to poach him like United have done with Hoogewerf, but he certainly shouldn't be considered unattainable. Similarly, Perr Schuurs is another interesting option at centre-back, though at 19 and now exposed to first-team football with the Dutch champions, he could be trickier to acquire.

Julian Aude - Lanus

Although Argentinian football can truly be a treasure trove of promising talent, work permits are often an issue for many players, particularly if they're young. But with Aude you shouldn't have such problems, as the 16-year-old also has Italian citizenship. The Lanus academy product has impressed with Argentina's youth sides due to his remarkable technical wizardry for a full-back, while he's also a tenacious competitor. Obviously, his age makes Aude a gamble, but he'll be affordable for many and there's little doubt about his potential, it's just a case of nurturing him.

Bryan Gil - Sevilla

The production line that nurtured Jesus Navas, Antonio Puerta, Sergio Ramos and Jose Antonio Reyes has gone a little stagnant in recent years, but Bryan arrived on the scene last term and made 11 substitute appearances in LaLiga, making an impact on the left flank in most - if not all - of them. Unless you want him on loan, he'll be difficult to sign initially for smaller clubs, but if he does become a realistic target at any point, he will provide a strong option as an out-and-out, old-fashioned left winger.

Odin Thiago Holm - Valerenga

A technically gifted central midfielder, Holm, 16, is yet to make a splash in the Valerenga first team. However, he is very highly rated in Norway, with his ability on the ball and eye for a pass drawing comparisons – perhaps predictable, given his name – with Bayern Munich star Thiago Alcantara. Considering his relative unknown status and the fact he is not playing in one of the more fashionable leagues, Holm would likely be a cheap, low-risk purchase that could really pay dividends down the line for managers aiming for a long stay.

Fernando Ovelar - Cerro Porteno

It's still to be confirmed if Ovelar will be on the game, as he is only 15. However, he has already made nine appearances for Cerro Porteno in Paraguay and scored his first goal in November 2018 when he was just 14, making him the Paraguayan Primera Division's youngest scorer and appearance maker. Although it's still early days in his career, he's a skilful and gifted forward, and if you fancy yourself as a manager adept at bringing youth talents through to the first team, he could be a shrewd investment.

Ronaldo Camara - Benfica

Already a regular for Benfica's Under-19s despite being 16, Camara is a potential diamond. A well-rounded attacking midfielder, the Guinea-Bissau native is not your average playmaker. He has a fine range of passing and can certainly dribble, but he is also a tireless worker and loves to tackle. Benfica are famous for selling cheaply acquired talents for huge sums and Camara looks to be of the same ilk… unless you can get him early.

The last time England faced South Africa at a World Cup with a Farrell playing as the designated goal kicker at inside-centre, Andy Farrell only took kick-offs.

In 2007, the defending champions went into a pool-stage encounter at the Stade de France with an injury crisis in midfield. Both Jonny Wilkinson and Olly Barkley were unavailable, thrusting Mike Catt into his first international outing at fly-half for eight years.

Outside him was the Wigan Warriors rugby league great who Saracens, with no little financial help from the Rugby Football Union, had persuaded to switch codes. Injuries and prolonged conjecture over what would prove his best position meant Farrell's transition had been far from smooth.

The knives sharpened further as an abysmal England were crushed 36-0. The experiment had failed. What a waste of money. A gritty, back-to-basics line-up with Farrell consigned to the bench recovered to reach the final and lose a more competitive rematch 15-6.

Twelve years later, the on-going returns might mean the RFU have never spent cash so shrewdly, even if Farrell Jr was obviously not a part of the initial grand plan.

Rugby league royalty

"He was kicking and screaming when we came down here," Andy Farrell told the Daily Mail, when recalling his son Owen's reaction to the family's 2005 move from Wigan to Hertfordshire for the switch to Saracens.

"He didn’t want to leave Wigan because he was playing league. But that lasted about two weeks."

By virtue of his father alone, Owen Farrell's lineage is one of rugby league royalty.

A Wigan regular at 16, a Great Britain international at 18 and captain of his country three years later, Andy Farrell was the loose forward, goal-kicking titan of a Warriors team that won six league titles and four Challenge Cups during his 13 seasons there.

Throw in Owen's rugby apprenticeship at the town's celebrated St Patrick's club and the fact his maternal uncle is current Wigan captain Sean O'Loughlin and it is easy to see how tightly those ties seemed to bind.

"We planned for him to go back up north on the train every weekend, to carry on playing league," Andy explained.

"He did that once or twice but then I took him to training at Saracens and he soon forgot what he was missing out on."

Hot-housed talent

Speaking to the Mirror last month, Wilkinson recalled Owen Farrell and his partner in England's creative department George Ford as eager teenagers along for the ride at the 2007 World Cup.

Ford's father Mike was England's defence coach at the tournament having been part of the backroom team at Saracens, essentially plotting a path for Andy Farrell as an esteemed former league player who became a high-end union tactician.

“When you look at the calibre of rugby talent in their fathers it comes as no surprise to me what those two have become," Wilkinson said.

"It is no surprise those guys are exploring stuff that we did not get near until we were much older."

Running to fetch Wilkinson's practice balls was virtually second-nature to Farrell. Watching elite training sessions and joining in wherever and whenever he could was something he had done from infancy.

“Faz brought him down from a really early age – it must have been five or six. He always had a rugby ball in his hands – he was destined to play the game,” former Wigan full-back Kris Radlinski told the Express in 2013.

"The players made it a comfortable environment for him. At the end of training, we would start catching and kicking a ball around with Owen. He became one of the lads."

Playing in tandem, as they will in Saturday's World Cup final, Owen Farrell and George Ford lend England an uncommon flair, one forged in the everyman surrounding of league's heartlands in the north of the country – a long way removed from union's public-school tradition.

Big Faz and Little Faz

Owen and George transferring their league-reared and hot-housed skills gave them an advantage racing through England's age-group teams before becoming the heartbeat of Eddie Jones' seniors.

As Andy Farrell discovered more than a decade ago, making the switch in the autumn years of your career is an altogether different challenge.

"He is getting to grips with it but it is probably a bit too late, with his age, to be where he wants to be," Mike Ford said in the aftermath of his friend's South Africa ordeal in 2007.

An international career effectively finished at the end of the tournament, it might have been tempting to return to the loving bosom of league – see Sam Burgess' understandable decision after England's 2015 World Cup campaign went south with him playing inside-centre and scapegoat.

But, despite speculation sometimes hinting in that direction, Andy Farrell's interest in coaching was already piqued and he had a son making waves in the Saracens academy. This was no time to walk away, something his innate determination might never have allowed in the first place.

By 2008, "Big Faz" and "Little Faz", as they were known at Wigan, were part of the same Premiership first-team squad under Jones. Since retiring in 2009, Andy Farrell has become one of the most respected defence coaches in the sport thank to stints with Saracens, England, the British and Irish Lions, Munster and Ireland. He will replace Joe Schmidt as Ireland's head coach when they return to action after the World Cup.

Owen Farrell has won five Premierships with Sarries, three European titles, starred on his second Lions tour in 2017 and risen to become his country's Mr Dependable and captain across an international career where – for now, at least – a 2016 Six Nations Grand Slam is the highlight in terms of honours.

As ferocious in the tackle as he is metronomic from the kicking tee, Owen has quietly become an inspirational leader in his father's mould. Something outlandish will have to happen in Saturday's final for his smirking stare down of the Haka before England's semi-final evisceration of New Zealand not to be the image of the tournament.

"I was always watching dad lift trophies," Owen Farrell told the Daily Mail in 2013. "That made me want to do what he does."

This weekend, the major prize that eluded his father and one that could not have felt further away on that bleak Paris night against the Springbok will be close to Owen's grasp. A would-be centrepiece in the dynasty building of the Farrells: rugby league and rugby union royalty.

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