When Rassie Erasmus took over as South Africa head coach just a year and a half before the Rugby World Cup, the former Springbok knew he had taken on a "huge task".

Erasmus already had more than enough on his plate as South Africa's director of rugby, a role with a wide-ranging remit.

The 47-year-old was still getting his feet under the table in that job when Allister Coetzee's turbulent reign as head coach was brought to an end in February 2018.

Erasmus agreed to the challenge of turning around the fortunes of a Springboks side who had won only 11 of Coetzee's 25 games in charge and dropped to sixth in the world rankings.

"It is a huge task to coach the Springboks and I am very privileged," Erasmus said.

"I really believe we have the players and the rugby IP [intellectual property] to turn things around and to mount a serious challenge at next year's Rugby World Cup."

Even the most optimistic fans of the Springboks might have raised eyebrows over such positive comments from the new head coach.

Yet the potential was there to see in a 2-1 home Test series defeat of England, led by Siya Kolisi after he was named as South Africa's first black captain.

A shock defeat of New Zealand followed last September and South Africa dethroned the All Blacks to win the Rugby Championship just a month before facing Steve Hansen's side in their first match of the World Cup.

Although Steve Hansen's two-time defending champions won that World Cup opener at International Stadium Yokohama almost six weeks ago, it is the Springboks who will contest the final with England at the same venue on Saturday.

Cheslin Kolbe has established himself as one of the most lethal wings in the world after being handed a debut last September, while Faf de Klerk is among the recalled players to have thrived under Erasmus after the 30-cap eligibility rule for overseas-based stars was scrapped.

Erasmus has turned South Africa into an uncompromising, well-drilled side, possessing relentless and brutal physicality, with explosive backs and busy scrum-half De Klerk pulling the strings.

Hooker Bongi Mbonambi said: "Rassie has made a massive difference. That difference has not just been to the South Africa team because his decisions have affected the whole nation.

"He is a coach who has an honest opinion about every player and he is not someone who does things behind closed doors but does it openly and everyone knows about it.

"Players have respect for someone who is honest and open and says what he is looking for. It gives you more freedom to go out there and express yourself. He does not put you in a box and that has been one of his outstanding features."

Erasmus will relinquish his head coach duties after the showdown with England this weekend and, regardless of the outcome, he has lifted the gloom and made a proud rugby nation a major force once again.

Cheslin Kolbe will return from an ankle injury for South Africa's Rugby World Cup final against England on Saturday.

Livewire wing Kolbe missed South Africa's semi-final win over Wales due to injury he tweaked in the quarter-final victory against hosts Japan.

However, Kolbe is back in the starting XV for the blockbuster Yokohama showdown in a big boost for 2007 world champions the Springboks.

Kolbe – who missed the pool match against Canada – comes in for stand-in Sbu Noksi as South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus' sole change to his side.

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi will earn his 50th Test cap, with South Africa seeking their second World Cup title, having trumped England in the final 12 years ago.

 

South Africa: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn.

England have named an unchanged team for the Rugby World Cup final against South Africa in Yokohama on Saturday.

Eddie Jones will deploy the same starting XV that beat two-time defending champions New Zealand in last week's semi-final.

That means captain Owen Farrell, Jonny May and Kyle Sinckler have been declared fit to face the Springboks, having picked up knocks against the All Blacks.

Ben Spencer is among the replacements for England after travelling to Japan to replace the injured Willi Heinz.

"It has been a good week, the players have been together a while now so it's less about the volume of training this week, it's more about sharpening the sword," said Jones, who will oversee his 50th Test in charge of England.

"South Africa are a difficult opponent and we are going to have to fight really hard to win. We know the physical part of the game is going to be important and the players will go into this game well prepared knowing how we want to play. We will go and play with no fear.

"South Africa will probably play a similar type of game they have played all tournament so we need be good in the arm wrestle and when we have the opportunities to break the game up, we are then confident and composed enough to take them."

England are looking to win their second World Cup, having triumphed over Australia in 2003 and finished runners-up to South Africa in 2007.

 

England: Elliot Daly, Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Billy Vunipola.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Joe Marler, Dan Cole, George Kruis, Mark Wilson, Ben Spencer, Henry Slade, Jonathan Joseph.

Retiring captain Kieran Read says New Zealand will pick themselves up for what promises to be an emotional Rugby World Cup third-place play-off with injury-hit Wales.

The All Blacks' quest to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for an unprecedented third time in a row was ended by an inspired England semi-final performance at International Stadium Yokohama last Saturday.

New Zealand were very much second best in a 19-7 defeat which denied Read the opportunity to end his Test career – and head coach Steve Hansen's glorious long reign – by making history.

Dane Coles, Ryan Crotty, Ben Smith, Matt Todd and Sonny Bill Williams are also set to pull on an All Blacks shirt for the last time in a bronze-medal match in Tokyo on Friday rather than a final 24 hours later.

Read says the two-time defending champions are still reeling from being dethroned, but are determined to finish on a high note and spoil compatriot Warren Gatland's last match in charge of Wales.

"It's been a rollercoaster over the last few days. It's a pleasure to play in this team and I've loved every minute I've had," said the back-row, who will lead out a side including seven changes.

"Post the game [against England], after a while it's like I might as well enjoy my time here, it's my last week to be with the men I call good mates, and I just want to enjoy the time with those blokes.

"It does require a bit of strength, knowing this is a game you didn't want to be in. It's been a weird few days. But we've got a chance to rectify a few things we didn't get right last week, and that in itself is exciting.

"It's not going to change the fact we're going to be hurting for a long time but you can change your mindset for this match and put the effort in."

Gatland made nine changes for his Wales swansong, wing Owen Lane among those to start, and the British and Irish Lions coach said: "It's the last game you want to be involved in, but it's been on the calendar and everyone has known about it.

"I think New Zealand's CEO Steve Tew made a joke to our chief executive Martyn Phillips that both teams should have a boat race and we could settle it that way!"

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

New Zealand - Rieko Ioane

Ioane will make only his third appearance of what has been a frustrating tournament for the wing. 

The flyer is hard to contain when at his devastating best and Wales will have their hands full trying to keep him quiet.

 

Wales - Owen Lane

Lane was only called up to the squad last week as a replacement for the injured Josh Navidi.

The 21-year-old, who can also operate as a centre, has been billed as a future star and will get the chance to live up to the hype against the two-time defending champions.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS 

- New Zealand have won 31 of their 34 Test meetings with Wales, their three defeats coming in the first four clashes between the sides - the most recent of which coming way back in 1953.

- The All Blacks have won their last 30 matches against Wales, the longest winning run any side has ever held over a tier one nation in Test history.

- Wales have played in a third-place play-off on two previous occasions; beating Australia in 1987 but losing to the Wallabies in 2011.

- New Zealand have participated for bronze on three occasions; winning against Scotland in 1991 and France in 2003, but losing to the Springboks in 1999. 

- Wales averaged just 1.6 metres per carry in their semi-final against South Africa, the lowest average gain ever by any side in a World Cup match.

Sean Fitzpatrick says he feels sorry for Kieran Read as he prepares to end his New Zealand career in a bronze match rather than chasing a third straight Rugby World Cup title.

All Blacks captain Read looked to be leading his side towards another World Cup triumph until the two-time defending champions met a determined England outfit in the semi-finals.

New Zealand were beaten comfortably by Eddie Jones' inspired team and Read, who previously announced his decision to retire after the tournament, is now bowing out against Wales in a third-place play-off.

Former All Black Fitzpatrick wished the 34-year-old had been able to enjoy a more fitting send-off but insisted he could still only be considered a true great.

"He's been an outstanding All Black captain, a phenomenal player, one of the great number eights in world rugby for many, many years," Fitzpatrick said, speaking courtesy of Laureus.

"He's had a long career. It's his third World Cup. I feel sorry for him that he finished on that note, but he's got another opportunity hopefully this week against Wales.

"He's one of the greats. He loves the All Black jersey and plays with a real passion. I wish him well with whatever he does. He'll go down as one of our great All Blacks."

Coach Steve Hansen will also depart after Friday's meeting with Wales, but Fitzpatrick hopes his staff - including assistant and potential replacement Ian Foster - will not pay the price for the England defeat.

Fitzpatrick believes coaches such as Foster have proven their worth regardless of a one-off loss.

"They'll go through a process [to appoint a coach]," Fitzpatrick said. "They've got people in line obviously already - I'd imagine they've done quite a bit of work on that.

"I don't think the game on Saturday would be a defining factor in saying, if it was going to be [an appointment] from within, we must change that. I don't agree with that.

"Because this group of coaches that are staying on after Hansen goes have done a brilliant job. I'm so proud as a past All Black. The past four-year cycle, they couldn't have done any more.

"They just came up against a team that dominated. I don't think that should have a real bearing on who the next All Blacks coach is."

Fitzpatrick now hopes the pain of losing to England can serve New Zealand well going forward.

"Everyone in that team hasn't experienced that feeling, so it's a big change," he added. "They'll learn from that.

"With how commanding the defeat was to England, although it's not easy to accept, they were better than us. We've got to take it on the chin and move on. We were outplayed and they [the players] know that.

"The way we did it yesterday is not enough to win tomorrow - that's been our philosophy all the way along as All Blacks. Prepare as if you're number two, never think you're good enough. At the moment, we're not number one."

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has described England's costly response to the Haka as "brilliant and quite imaginative".

England fronted up to the All Blacks' pre-match ritual at International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday by forming a V shape before dethroning the two-time defending champions with a dominant 19-7 semi-final victory.

Joe Marler was among the England players warned to retreat after crossing the halfway line during the Haka.

World Rugby has fined England a reported £2,000 for overstepping the mark, and Hansen was quick to point out the sanction was due to a breach of tournament regulations rather than showing a lack of respect.

"They didn't get fined for responding to the Haka - they got fined for coming over halfway," Hanson said.

"Joe [Marler] didn't go back when he was told two or three times. The Haka requires a response. It's a challenge to you, personally, and it requires a response.

"I thought it was brilliant and quite imaginative, too."

England lock Courtney Lawes said Eddie Jones' side felt it was important to show they were ready for the battle.

"Yes, we wanted to be respectful, but we wanted to show that we weren't just going to sit there and take whatever they had," said Lawes.

"We wanted to show we were just as up for the game, and we thought it was a good way of doing that. We didn't go there to cause any disrespect. We just wanted to show that we were up for the challenge.

"They certainly seemed, as we started moving towards them, they accepted the challenge. I thought it was good."

Dane Coles has reiterated he intends to remain a part of the New Zealand squad despite the imminent changing of the guard following the Rugby World Cup.

A number of All Blacks players and coach Steve Hansen will depart following Friday's bronze final against Wales, having fallen short in their bid for a third consecutive title.

But Coles, who signed a new contract until 2021 in January, does not plan to add his name to that list in the aftermath of a chastening semi-final defeat to England.

The 68-cap hooker is now determined to work hard to prove he deserves to remain in the group.

"I'd love to be in the All Blacks next year. I love playing for this team," Coles said.

"I still have a desire to pull on that black jersey and represent my country, so there will be a strong desire to work hard next year and get back to this team because I love it and care about it."

Coles acknowledges the reverse at the hands of England will not be quickly forgotten, but he hopes the younger members of the team can use the setback as motivation.

"It's always going to be there, but it's important we learn from adversity," he said. "There's a lot of young guys who, hopefully, take a hell of a lot out of it.

"This is going to be one that hangs around. We just have to use it in the right way."

Former New Zealand star Sean Fitzpatrick believes South Africa will need "the game of their lives" to beat England in the Rugby World Cup final.

The Springboks defeated Wales to book their place in Saturday's showpiece where they will play a rematch of the 2007 final.

This match comes after England sensationally upset the All Blacks, who were two-time defending champions, the world's top-ranked side and tournament favourites.

Fitzpatrick, who watched that stunning All Blacks loss at close quarters, claims a South Africa victory would be similar in magnitude to England's win, having been hugely impressed by the squad Eddie Jones has built.

"[Jones] is a wily old character and he's got huge experience. He'll be doing everything he can," Fitzpatrick said, speaking courtesy of Laureus. "He's had a four-year plan, he's developed a squad that's very deep and a squad that will want to win the World Cup.

"I said last week, it's going to take a heck of a performance to beat the All Blacks but, if they do, they'd deserve to be there.

"This week, the roles are reversed. If South Africa beat England, they are going to have to play the game of their lives. I just can't see England losing at the moment."

If the Springboks are to triumph, 1987 World Cup winner Fitzpatrick suggests England would need to turn in an error-strewn performance, having previously profited from the All Blacks' mistakes.

"It'll be the team that makes the least mistakes," he said. "We saw an All Blacks team that made more mistakes on Saturday than they had in their previous games.

"If you make mistakes, the opposition at this level are teams that are capable of capitalising on those mistakes.

"They both have got a burning desire to win the World Cup but, for me, it's literally as easy as that. You make the least mistakes and you'll win."

While impressed by England, Fitzpatrick is now intrigued to see how they now handle playing as favourites, having also moved to the top of the rankings.

The 92-cap international said: "The biggest thing for me this Saturday is to see how England react to the pressure of being favourites, being number one in the world, up against a team not a lot of people think can beat them."

England were stunning winners against New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals, destroying the title ambitions of the mighty defending champions.

A 19-7 triumph last Saturday sets up Eddie Jones' side for a shot at South Africa in the final, and already England are being tagged as firm favourites.

But the Springboks side that edged past Wales to reach the showpiece match will have plenty to say about the destination of the trophy this weekend.

And 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 notable 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.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has made nine changes for his final match in charge against New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup third-place play-off.

Friday's bronze medal match at Tokyo Stadium in Chofu will bring down the curtain on Gatland's 12-year stint at the helm of Wales.

New Zealander Gatland will coach the British and Irish Lions in South Africa in 2021, while he has also signed on to lead Super Rugby outfit the Chiefs on a four-year deal.

Injuries mean Tomas Francis (shoulder), George North (hamstring), Aaron Wainwright (hamstring) and Leigh Halfpenny (concussion) will sit out the clash with the All Blacks, having started in the semi-final loss to South Africa.

Owen Lane, Nicky Smith and James Davis come into the starting XV, Hallam Amos takes over from Halfpenny at full-back, while Adam Beard returns to partner captain Alun Wyn Jones.

There is also an opportunity for Tomos Williams and Rhys Patchell to form a new half-back partnership for Wales, as Owen Watkin features alongside Jonathan Davies against the dethroned world champions.

 

Wales: Hallam Amos, Owen Lane, Jonathan Davies, Owen Watkin, Josh Adams, Rhys Patchell, Tomos Williams; Nicky Smith, Ken Owens, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, James Davies, Ross Moriarty.

Replacements: Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones, Jake Ball, Aaron Shingler, Gareth Davies, David Biggar, Hadleigh Parkes.

Sonny Bill Williams has been named to start for New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup third-place play-off against Wales in what is expected to be his All Blacks farewell.

Two-time world champion Williams has been linked with a return to rugby league via ambitious Super League newcomers Toronto Wolfpack once his contract expires at the end of the World Cup.

With Toronto confirming talks, Friday's match against Wales is tipped to be the 34-year-old's last in a New Zealand jersey after he came off the bench in the All Blacks' shock semi-final defeat to England.

The bronze medal match at Tokyo Stadium in Chofu will be the scene of an emotional night for the dethroned All Blacks.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read will lead New Zealand for the last time before international retirement as head coach Steve Hansen prepares to depart.

Outgoing boss Hansen has made seven changes to the starting XV, with Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty coming in for their international farewells.

"This was a tough team to select because, as always, everyone wanted to play," Hansen said. "But with a short turnaround and the nature of the Tournament, we feel that this is the right team for this occasion.

"There's been a lot of external talk around this being the game that no one wants to play. However, from our point of view, we can't wait to play it. Everyone in the squad − players and management − are motivated by the opportunity to show that our last performance wasn't at the high standard that we know we can play at.

"This is a Test match against an opposition that will also be keen to make a statement. Therefore, we will need to turn up with real attitude, intent and work ethic, and then execute our skillsets to the highest level possible. The game will be physical and fast as both teams will look to play to their strengths. We are looking forward to it and can't wait."

 

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane, Kieran Read.

Replacements: Liam Coltman, Atu Moli, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Matt Todd, Brad Weber, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jordie Barrett.

Billy Vunipola struck a defiant tone ahead of England's Rugby World Cup final with South Africa, telling the Springboks to "bring it on".

His words came after Lood de Jager promised the underdogs would "fight fire with fire" in what the towering South African lock expects to be a bruising encounter in Yokohama on Saturday.

Rassie Erasmus' men produced a gritty display to edge out Wales 19-16 in their semi-final, while England claimed a far more eye-catching 19-7 defeat of reigning champions New Zealand.

But the physical battle will be intense this weekend and Vunipola insists Eddie Jones' side are ready for it.

"They have already come out and said they want to fight fire with fire. I guess we return it by saying, 'bring it on'," said the number eight.

"They are very, very big people but then again we have a few big blokes on our team."

Vunipola revealed the bold approach England took in the semi-final inspired him, with Jones' men combining free-flowing rugby with a controlled aggression that rattled the All Blacks.

"It's something that you probably can't measure, but I think the best way to explain it is that it's quite contagious," he said.

"It shows everyone it can be done, so everyone else tries to follow in the slipstreams of [Sam] Underhill, [Tom] Curry, [Maro] Itoje.

"It's very easy when you see it. A lot of people talk about it and it's easy to sit here and say we want to be brutal, but you have to back those words up."

Vunipola faces a tough fight of his own against opposite number Duane Vermeulen, having ended up on the losing side three times against him.

"He's such a big player for them," Vunipola said. "I played against him last summer and he was monumental in terms of getting them those two victories [in a series the Springboks won 2-1].

"Not just myself, but we've got to try and negate the influence of him and everyone else around him."

Rassie Erasmus accepts the criticism Rugby World Cup finalists South Africa have received for their attritional style but insists such an approach has been necessary after a fall from grace.

The Springboks set up a final showdown with England in Yokohama on Saturday courtesy of a battling 19-16 win over Wales, in which Erasmus' side were disciplined and diligent but never daring.

However, their run to the final in Japan comes after a recent history that saw South Africa slide down the world rankings and Erasmus claims his current tactics are a stop-gap while he plans for something bigger.

"If one understands where we have come from – we have been number six, seven and eight in the world – we have got certain challenges and one of them was to redeem ourselves and become a power again in world rugby and try and get to number one and two," he said.

"By doing that you have to have some building blocks in place and we have followed a certain route and play according to the stats and the way the game is being refereed currently and what gives you short-term good results on the scoreboard. 

"We certainly accept that there are some things in our game that we have to improve and we take it on the chin and we will keep on improving that. But we have put ourselves in a position to maybe win the World Cup and we are in the final.

"Yes, we accept the criticism but we are also happy we are in a position to compete in a World Cup final which is ultimately where we want to be."

Erasmus' staunch belief in his approach is reflected in his desire to pick "more or less" the same starting XV for the weekend as he named against Wales, and England can expect to face the same kicking game that ultimately got the better of Warren Gatland's men.

"Our team selection won't be far off from what we've been selecting the last couple of games," he said.

"We'll pretty much go with more or less the same team. We believe that's the way we can get the best out of our team and we believe that's the longevity of playing so many games in a six-day turnaround, rotating forwards and stuff like that. 

"It's a bit of horses for courses but we believe it's our most in-fit, form, best available, best combination team so there's a bit of both.

"You can expect very much the same from us on Saturday."

Jerome Garces will referee the Rugby World Cup final between England and South Africa on Saturday.

He will become the first Frenchman to take charge of a World Cup final, the match marking his 56th Test with the whistle.

Compatriot Romain Poite and New Zealand's Ben O'Keeffe will be his assistant referees, while Kiwi Ben Skeen will serve as TMO.

"I am honoured and delighted to be appointed to referee the Rugby World Cup 2019 final," said Garces ahead of the match in Yokohama.

"It is a dream as a referee, but this is a team sport, and as a team of four, we will be out there to do the best for the teams, the fans, the sport, but also the entire match officials team, selectors and support team, who have worked so hard over the last four years, culminating in Rugby World Cup 2019."

Garces' performance in the Springboks' 19-16 semi-final win over Wales attracted criticism from some pundits, who questioned the award of a couple of penalties in favour of Rassie Erasmus' side.

Billy Vunipola has Rugby World Cup success in his sights but the England number eight is hoping a bit of pre-match coaching from his auntie does not prove a distraction.

England meet South Africa in the final in Yokohama this weekend after producing a stunning display to beat reigning champions New Zealand 19-7.

Eddie Jones' side are favourites to prevail in a match against opponents who narrowly edged out Wales in their semi-final, favouring a kicking game that is in stark contrast to England's free-flowing style.

Vunipola has been a key part of that approach but, despite being on the brink of glory in Japan, he is still getting tips from the family who have travelled to support him and his brother, Mako.

"They can be a distraction as well," said the 26-year-old of his visiting loved ones. "You know, [getting them] tickets, trying to give you pointers on how to play rugby.

"My auntie is always great for that. But their support is very important to us. I guess that's all we need at the moment.

"My auntie is trying to tell me how to play number eight and things to my brother as well. So, as good as it is to have them, they can be a distraction."

On the serious business of wrapping up the title, Vunipola knows England must reproduce the levels they showed from the start against the previously all-conquering All Blacks. 

"We've set out wanting to be the best in the world and we've got to back up what we did last week," he said. "It can't just be a fluke.

"I think the challenge has been laid out by South Africa and you saw them taking Japan apart and Wales.

"The challenge is going to be up front and so we are going to have to be there, both mentally and physically."

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