The New Zealand Warriors and Auckland Blues have jointly announced their respective rugby codes will host a NRL and Super Rugby doubleheader in March next year.

The back-to-back games at Eden Park are believed to be a world first with Auckland’s NRL and Super Rugby teams hosting their Canberra-based counterparts for an event known as the "codes of Auckland."

Rugby League’s Warriors will host NRL grand finalists Canberra Raiders at 5pm local time before Union’s Blues will take on the two-time Super Rugby champions ACT Brumbies at 7:35pm.

The New Zealand-based duo trialled a single-ticket promotion in 2019 for games hosted on the same weekend and months of discussions have allowed the codes to unite for a blockbuster event.

"We have much in common as professional teams in international competition and we know that we have fans that follow both clubs," Warriors CEO Cameron George and Blues chairman Don Mackinnon said in a joint statement.

"Both clubs have worked together in recent years when the opportunity has arisen, and we have been trying to make this idea work for a couple of years.

"With both clubs playing Canberra teams on the same weekend, it was the perfect chance to give it a go. It's exciting and innovative and gives the Warriors and the Blues the unique opportunity to celebrate some of the best sporting entertainment that Auckland has to offer."

The event will be held on March 21 in round eight of the Super Rugby competition and round two of the NRL season.

Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio believes his country will complete the most impressive Rugby World Cup win of all time if they are able to overcome South Africa in Saturday's final.

Dallaglio was one of the heroes of England's triumphant 2003 World Cup campaign and also starred as a grizzled band of forwards dragged a less-accomplished side to the final four years later, where South Africa were the victors in Paris.

But the manner in which Eddie Jones' men have dispatched opponents of New Zealand and Australia's calibre in the semi and quarter-finals leads Dallaglio to believe the class of 2019 will stand apart if they are able to complete a clean sweep of rugby's southern hemisphere giants.

"If they win the World Cup, which they've got every chance of doing, it will probably be the best World Cup win ever," he told Sky Sports.

"While they might have had it easy in the pool stages, they will have had to beat Australia, New Zealand and South Africa [to lift the trophy].

"If you can do the Tri Nations and lift the trophy at the end of it, then you deserve to be crowned world champions."

England produced what is likely to be viewed as a generation-defining performance in their semi-final, dominating from the first whistle to win 19-7 and hand the All Blacks their first World Cup defeat for 12 years.

By contrast, South Africa and Wales engaged in a battle of attrition on Sunday in Yokohama.

"The first game was amazing in the sense that you were absolutely captivated by what happened," Dallaglio said.

"The second game was a real kick-fest – 81 kicks [front hand]. It wasn't easy on the eye.

"That's the way it went, it was a bit of an arm-wrestle. South Africa came out on top as we probably thought they would if the game panned out that way."

He added: "England have got to play a really tough opponent. Naturally there's a bit of excitement, everyone's now expecting England to go in there and do what they did against the All Blacks.

"You can't expect that because it doesn't happen like that in rugby. I guess what South Africa have shown in this tournament is they're going to be a really difficult nut to crack. They've only conceded four tries – two of them in the first game against the All Blacks."

Eddie Jones knows South Africa's forward power poses a considerable threat to England in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final.

Both teams reached the showpiece in contrasting fashion last weekend – England dazzling throughout a dominant performance to unseat New Zealand, sending the reigning champions home with a 19-7 triumph.

A day later, South Africa were indebted to a perfect goalkicking performance from fly-half Handre Pollard as they edged Wales 19-16 in a gruelling encounter.

Jones noted the impact of the Springbok forwards introduced from the bench during the second half in Yokohama, hinting he would not be surprised if Rassie Erasmus opted to shuffle his starting XV.

"The only thing we are really worried about is how the Springboks turn up on Saturday," he told a news conference on Monday.

"They won a tough semi-final and when you are in the final of the World Cup you have done a lot of good things right.

"They are a massively aggressive forward pack and they played their stronger team in the second half as opposed to the first half.

"They are going to be a difficult side to beat but we will enjoy the preparations.

"We know a couple of areas where we think we can expose them and will make sure we are good in those areas."

England and South Africa have shared two wins apiece over their past four meetings and Jones is an admirer of his opposite number Erasmus.

Pollard and Faf de Klerk's kicking games were dominant features of the Springbok display against Wales but the England boss knows they can vary their approach.

"Rassie is a cunning coach and has done a great job with the Springboks," Jones said

"We are prepared for the unexpected and they can play different ways. You saw Faf de Klerk doing 15-20 box kicks. Handre Pollard is an excellent kicker of the ball and he was smooth and had a nice touch on the ball.

"They can play differently but also know they can come through the front door. Not many Springbok teams you play don't come through the front door so we will be ready at the front door and have enough cover for the back door if that happens."

Eddie Jones knows South Africa's forward power poses a considerable threat to England in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final.

Both teams reached the showpiece in contrasting fashion last weekend – England dazzling throughout a dominant performance to unseat New Zealand, sending the reigning champions home with a 19-7 triumph.

A day later, South Africa were indebted to a perfect goalkicking performance from fly-half Handre Pollard as they edged Wales 19-16 in a gruelling encounter.

Jones noted the impact of the Springbok forwards introduced from the bench during the second half in Yokohama, hinting he would not be surprised if Rassie Erasmus opted to shuffle his starting XV.

"The only thing we are really worried about is how the Springboks turn up on Saturday," he told a news conference on Monday.

"They won a tough semi-final and when you are in the final of the World Cup you have done a lot of good things right.

"They are a massively aggressive forward pack and they played their stronger team in the second half as opposed to the first half.

"They are going to be a difficult side to beat but we will enjoy the preparations.

"We know a couple of areas where we think we can expose them and will make sure we are good in those areas."

England and South Africa have shared two wins apiece over their past four meetings and Jones is an admirer of his opposite number Erasmus.

Pollard and Faf de Klerk's kicking games were dominant features of the Springbok display against Wales but the England boss knows they can vary their approach.

"Rassie is a cunning coach and has done a great job with the Springboks," Jones said

"We are prepared for the unexpected and they can play different ways. You saw Faf de Klerk doing 15-20 box kicks. Handre Pollard is an excellent kicker of the ball and he was smooth and had a nice touch on the ball.

"They can play differently but also know they can come through the front door. Not many Springbok teams you play don't come through the front door so we will be ready at the front door and have enough cover for the back door if that happens."

A smiling Eddie Jones hit back at Warren Gatland in typically mischievous fashion after the outgoing Wales coach appeared to question whether England would "turn up" in the Rugby World Cup final.

England produced a sensational performance on Saturday to dethrone two-time defending champions New Zealand, triumphing 19-7 as the likes of Maro Itoje, Sam Underhill and George Ford excelled.

Jones' side will face South Africa in a repeat of the 2007 final, the Springboks having edged out Wales 19-16 in Sunday's second last-four contest to deny Gatland a triumphant send-off.

Following Wales' loss, Gatland said: "We have seen in previous World Cups that teams sometimes play their final in semi-finals and don’t always turn up for a final. So it will be interesting to see how England are next week."

When those comments were put to Jones on Monday, the Australian broke into a grin and replied: "Well, guys, can you just send my best wishes to Warren to make sure he enjoys the third and fourth place play-off."

Jones was able to deliver positive injury updates on Jonny May and skipper Owen Farrell. May was a doubt for the semi-final against the All Blacks due to a hamstring injury and limped off early in the second half, while Farrell relinquished kicking duties to Ford after taking a knock in the opening 40.

"We had a walk through this morning and we had to tell Jonny to slow down a bit," Jones said of May. "He is probably in better condition than he was last week at this stage. Immeasurably better.

"Owen is a bit sore but he will be fine. We have got a few others carrying bumps and bruises because it was a tough game."

One England player who will not feature in Saturday's final is Willi Heinz. The scrum-half suffered a hamstring injury after coming off the bench against New Zealand and Ben Spencer has been called up in his place.

"It is tough for Willi," said Jones. "He has been a great contributor and a very well-liked member of the squad. He was in tears in the dressing room but he has collected himself and now knows he has another role to play for us and he will fulfil that role really well this week.

"Ben has been in and around the squad consistently for the last couple of years so he knows the game, he knows the players. He is a fit guy and just fits in quite readily. We always said to those guys outside the 31 that they need to be ready, and he is ready to go."

Ben Earl scored a second-half double as Saracens responded to their opening-day defeat with a 24-10 Premiership win at Leicester Tigers on Sunday.

Sarries started the defence of their title by losing at home to Northampton Saints last weekend, but they tamed the Tigers at Welford Road.

The Premiership and European champions were without Ben Spencer after the scrum-half was called up to the England squad ahead of the Rugby World Cup final as a replacement for the injured Willi Heinz.

The London club also lost full-back Alex Goode for up to four months with a pectoral tear this week but showed their strength in depth by outscoring Leicester by three tries to one.

Nick Tompkins rounded off a well-worked move to score the only try of a first half that ended with Mark McCall's men leading 10-3 and Earl ran 30 metres to go under the posts seven minutes after the interval.

Adam Thompstone's intercept try midway through the second half reduced the deficit to seven points, but Earl grabbed his second late on to seal it for Sarries.

Wales could not have put any more effort into their display against South Africa, according to Warren Gatland, who took pride in his side's over-achievement at the Rugby World Cup.

Handre Pollard's late penalty settled a tense semi-final in Yokohama on Sunday as the Springboks came out on top 19-16 to progress to the final, where they will face England.

Next Saturday's clash will be a rematch of the 2007 final, which South Africa won 15-6, while Wales will face New Zealand in the bronze match on Friday.

Josh Adams' converted try had put Wales level with under 15 minutes remaining, but the Six Nations champions failed to capitalise on some sustained pressure, with Pollard settling the contest with his fourth successful penalty with four minutes left.

Gatland, though, was adamant his side had little else left to give.

"We gave 100 per cent. It's a tough, physical South Africa team, they won the collisions in terms of the carry and stuff, but I thought we were pretty good at times, but they're big men," Gatland, whose tenure will come to an end after the World Cup, told ITV Sport.

"Our guys didn't take a backwards step and I can only be proud of them for that and like I said we stayed in that arm-wrestle for a long time.

"Great credit to South Africa, they played very well, and we probably gave up too many penalties in our own half and that cost us dearly.

"I'm proud of the fact we never gave up and that got us back into the game and we were in the arm-wrestle, but probably three or four penalties during the game, which would cost any team points...

"That's how close and tight these games are. We're disappointed because we worked hard, and a penalty is the difference between the teams.

"We've punched massively above our weight when you consider the playing numbers in Wales. I'm massively proud of what these guys have achieved – they'll keep playing hard and working hard.

"For a long time, it was pretty close and at 16-16 you're dreaming about the points going the other way but congratulations to South Africa and I'm sure it'll be a great final with England."

Gatland's counterpart Rassie Erasmus, meanwhile, believes the Springboks' grit and spirit will ensure they have earned the respect of fans back home and across the world.

"We're in the final of a World Cup. I guess that'll get some respect, but we're only halfway there," he said.

"We play a class England team in the final but we're there, we've got a chance now and we might go all the way, you never know.

"Our group stands together. Nobody cares who gets substituted. We substituted our captain and he takes it on the chin. The guys defended on the try line and those moments count and really help the team gel together and that kind of team spirit can make the nation proud."

Leigh Halfpenny disabused any notion of solidarity with Willie le Roux when he caught his opposite number in mid-air after half an hour of Sunday's attritional Rugby World Cup semi-final in Yokohama.

Wales and South Africa's fullbacks had an abundance of work to get through in swirling conditions as the opening 40 minutes produced 40 kicks from hand.

After the thundering intensity and brilliance of England's Saturday dethroning of New Zealand, this felt like a different sport at times. Opposition 22s were not usually places to set up camp but visit fleetingly.

This clash of two brutally physical packs meant such an encounter was always on the cards, placing huge onus on a pair of fly-halves whose route to a defining match has been nowhere near as smooth as they would have hoped four years ago.

When South Africa beat Wales 23-19 in the 2015 quarter-final at Twickenham in an eminently more watchable affair, a 21-year-old Handre Pollard landed five penalties and a drop goal.

A career on the line

Already named IRB Junior Player of the Year for 2014, Pollard's cool-headedness and nerveless accuracy had him marked out for greatness. However, a shoulder injury sustained playing club rugby in Japan set off a career-threatening chain of events.

He decided to try to nurse the problem through the 2016 Super Rugby season with the Bulls, but that plan was shelved after he suffered a snapped anterior cruciate ligament during training.

Pragmatically, Pollard elected to have surgery to fix his shoulder while incapacitated, only to contract an infection in hospital.

"It got to the point where the doctors raised the subject of amputating my arm, although it wasn't an immediate option," he told The Guardian. "I spent six weeks in hospital pumped full of antibiotics about seven hours a day."

The treatment worked and an absence from the international stage of almost two years ended against New Zealand in North Shore. Pollard was a replacement in a 57-0 mauling at the hands of the All Blacks, yet he was playing with the perspective that things could have been so much worse.

It helps to know a World Cup semi-final is at once much more than a game of rugby but still only a game of rugby. South Africa anticipated a tight contest and bet on Pollard's goal-kicking. He was perfect in a game where they were never behind.

A career forever questioned

The responsibility of leading the catch-up operation fell to Dan Biggar, who kicked 14 points to Pollard's 18 in that Twickenham meeting.

Acclaim has rarely arrived so easily for Biggar as it does for his counterpart, though. His 11-year international career has been a fight for approval against celebrated compatriots, while measuring up uncomfortably to the aesthetic demands of a Welsh 10.

From competing against James Hook and Rhys Priestland during his early years to recent jousts with Gareth Anscombe, Biggar has been a loyal servant to his country, always striving to belong.

When an injury to Halfpenny four years ago thrust kicking duties upon him, many doubted Biggar's chops for the task. His 23 points sent England on the way to heartbreak at their own party.

Anscombe being ruled out of this competition persuaded Wales great JJ Williams to declare his country could not win a World Cup with Biggar at fly-half.

"I've had it my whole career,” Biggar told WalesOnline. "There could be another ex-player calling for someone from Penclawdd to play number 10 next week! It's one of those things."

There was similar defiance in each swipe of the boot that took Wales from 3-0, 6-3 and 9-3 behind to parity early in the second period.

Glory and despair

Unfortunately for Biggar, the Springboks had decided to target him at the gain line and he missed Damian de Allende as the South Africa skipper burst through for a game-breaking try.

It was his last involvement, as Rhys Patchell came on in his place – the words of Williams and others perhaps unfairly pounding in Biggar's ears.

Josh Adams went over to level matters once again after a monumental Wales effort by the South Africa line, but the glory would be Pollard's.

Wales brought a maul to ground right in front of referee Jerome Garces and, after a frivolous drop goal attempt, Pollard took it back to the tee.

Ice cold as usual, he bisected the posts with a certain inevitability. Of course, his presence on such a stage was anything but inevitable when faced with the consuming darkness of that hospital bed.

South Africa battled into the final of the Rugby World Cup as Handre Pollard's pinpoint kicking earned a 19-16 victory over Wales in a semi-final of attrition in Yokohama.

With England coach Eddie Jones watching on from the stands following his side's dominant display against New Zealand, Pollard starred to take the Springboks into their first World Cup final since 2007.

Following an exchange of penalties between Pollard and the equally composed Dan Biggar, a try from Damian de Allende put South Africa in the lead before the hour.

The tournament's leading try-scorer Josh Adams powered over to pull Wales level soon after but, despite a spell of pressure, Warren Gatland's side could not craft another opening.

It was Pollard who settled it, punting a long-range penalty through the uprights after a foul at the maul to send South Africa through to their third World Cup final, with England waiting for a rematch of their showdown 12 years ago.

Ben Spencer will join the England squad as emergency cover for Willi Heinz ahead of the Rugby World Cup final.

World Cup finalists England announced on Sunday that Saracens scrum-half Spencer is on his way to Japan amid concerns over Heinz.

Heinz – who will undergo a scan – injured his hamstring in Saturday's memorable semi-final win over two-time defending champions New Zealand.

A three-time international, Spencer missed out on a spot in Eddie Jones' 31-man squad for the World Cup, though he did take part in one of England's training camps.

England will face either Wales or South Africa in the final in Yokohama on November 2.

Leinster made it four wins from four in Pro14 as they consigned Zebre to a fourth straight defeat, but they had to settle for a 3-0 margin of victory on Saturday.

Top defeated bottom in Conference A, but there was surprisingly little between the two sides as Zebre earned a losing bonus point in testing conditions in Parma.

The Italian side were much improved from their previous losses, conceding at least 50 points in each of them, yet had no answer to Ross Byrne's 20th-minute penalty.

Leinster are now the only team with a 100 per cent record, after Scarlets' winning start was ended in comprehensive fashion by Edinburgh.

Duhan van der Merwe scored a hat-trick of tries and Mike Willemse grabbed another two as the Scottish outfit crushed Scarlets 46-7.

Connacht sit top of Conference B after edging out Cheetahs 24-22 in a dramatic finish.

Cheetahs centre Dries Swanepoel was sent off with 10 minutes remaining and his side 22-14 up, watching on as Tom Farrell subsequently crossed twice to steal victory.

Zebre are not alone with four defeats from four, as Southern Kings were beaten again, going down 36-30 to Benetton - the victors breaking their own duck.

In the only other match of the day, Dragons eased past Glasgow Warriors, who did not get on the scoresheet until the final minute of an 18-5 reverse.

Aaron Smith says New Zealand's Rugby World Cup exit to England left him "highly embarrassed" and insisted the All Blacks could not be accused of not caring.

Two-time defending champions New Zealand saw their unbeaten run at World Cups that stretched back to 2007 ended in convincing fashion by England.

Eddie Jones' ran out 19-7 winners in the semi-finals to consign the All Blacks to the bronze-medal match.

Scrum-half Smith was adamant the reverse was not for a lack of heart, though, as he compared the New Zealand dressing room to a funeral.

"I'm truly gutted and highly embarrassed," Smith said. "You've got family, friends texting you, but you know they're pretty gutted.

"If New Zealand [the country] thinks that we're not gutted, you've just got to go see that changing room. It was like a funeral.

"We are putting on brave faces so it's going to be a long summer. It's over and we trained our guts out. We trained hard for this and prepared well.

"But, in the end, sport happens and we got beat."

New Zealand winger Sevu Reece paid tribute to England, who can look forward to next Saturday's final.

"They were the better team in the end," Reece said. "They came out really strong at the start and they managed to hold onto that for the whole 80 [minutes].

"We expected them to come out with the performance they did but credit to England for a great performance."

Maro Itoje insists the England camp was calm leading into the stunning Rugby World Cup semi-final win over New Zealand - because Eddie Jones' men are always confident.

England dominated the All Blacks for an outstanding 19-7 victory on Saturday, handing the two-time defending champions their first World Cup defeat since 2007.

Itoje and his team-mates are now heading to the final, with England reaching the trophy match for the first time in 12 years.

The downing of New Zealand was widely considered an upset, yet in-form lock Itoje suggested England always fancied their chances, illustrating a self-belief that will serve them well heading into the final.

"We've always had belief within our squad," Itoje said. "We have the players, we have some brilliant characters in our squad, our coaches, they've done a phenomenal job so far.

"So belief has never been a problem for us.

"It was quite calm [before New Zealand], to be honest. I don't know how it was perceived from the outside.

"But we always believed that we are capable of something like we demonstrated on the pitch. It doesn't come as a big shock for us."

Itoje assessed the victory as "pretty cool" and is now relishing the prospect of a week-long build-up to the game of his life.

"Yeah, it's pretty cool. I'm very, very happy with the performance from the team," he said.

"There's obviously some things we could have done better, but we did a good job in staying engaged.

"We're really excited. These are the weeks that you want to be a part of as a player. And I'm very honoured and humbled to be a part of what will be a great week."

Last season's Premiership semi-finalists Northampton Saints and Gloucester continued strong starts to the new campaign with wins on Saturday.

Northampton claimed an impressive victory over champions Saracens last time out but had to wait until the second half against Worcester Warriors this week to move clear and claim a 35-16 bonus-point success.

Saints were 9-6 down at half-time and went over five times in the second period to triumph, with George Furbank crossing twice.

At Gloucester, on the day England beat the All Blacks to reach the Rugby World Cup final, Joe Simpson, a one-cap Red Rose international, and Tom Marshall, a New Zealander, were each at the double for the hosts.

The duo each crossed in both halves as Gloucester cruised to a 25-9 victory over Wasps, who had Malakai Fekitoa sent to the sin bin early in the second period.

Simpson was facing former club Wasps for the first time since his move at the start of this season.

Gloucester and Northampton sit level on nine points at the top of the Premiership as the only undefeated sides after two games.

London Irish, who won at Wasps on their return to the top flight last week, were given a reality check in going down 41-7 at home to Sale Sharks.

There were six tries for visitors Sale, as Akker van der Merwe, Denny Solomona, Marland Yarde, Josh Beaumont, Robert du Preez and Rohan Janse van Rensburg making hay.

Bristol Bears also failed to follow up an opening victory, with Harlequins getting their first win of the campaign 22-17.

England centre Joe Marchant crossed for Quins' only try, as Marcus Smith crucially kicked 17 points.

Siya Kolisi thinks a defeat to New Zealand has worked in South Africa's favour in their pursuit of Rugby World Cup glory in Japan.

The Springboks were beaten by the All Blacks in their first game of the tournament but have responded by winning four in a row to reach the semi-finals.

South Africa will face Wales in Yokohama on Sunday for the right to play England - conquerors of New Zealand - in the final next Saturday.

Captain Kolisi says a 23-13 loss to the two-time defending champions five weeks ago has made South Africa accustomed to playing in must-win games.

"We lost the first game so we have been under pressure since then," said the flanker.

"We have been playing knockout rugby from the beginning but being here for so long has helped us.

"We've got used to the environment, we've adapted quickly and got to know what works for you and what doesn't work for you while you're here. And we have been improving as a team.

"I think our team spirit and understanding of one another as a team and knowing what makes each other tick has been really huge for us."

Kolisi knows what to expect from Wales but says South Africa are confident they can come through the second semi-final if they play to their strengths.

"We know we're facing a tough opposition but all we can do is focus on what we do best and what got us here," said Kolisi.

"We're very excited as a team. We've worked hard this week. We have prepped as much as we can and given them the respect they deserve. Bu the most important thing is that we're effective at what we do – that's our focus."

 

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