South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus spoke of his pride after his players sealed the country's third Rugby World Cup with a stunning victory over England.

England came into Saturday's final in Yokohama as favourites after accounting for defending champions New Zealand in the last four, while the Springboks had edged past Wales.

But South Africa controlled the showpiece in an emphatic 32-12 victory, with Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe scoring the only two tries of the match and Handre Pollard adding 22 points with the boot.

Duane Vermeulen inspired South Africa with a man-of-the-match performance and Erasmus felt his team's cohesion proved decisive in a year that also saw them win the Rugby Championship.

"I'm so proud of them, we fought hard until the end," Erasmus said after the match.

"I just think the boys believed in themselves, we are a bunch of guys who have been together for 19 weeks and we know one another really well. 

"We have got so much respect for England and we really prepared well. I think we were also a little bit fortunate but we are really enjoying it at this stage.

"To the Springboks supporters I would like to say we never felt alone here in Japan, we felt them all the way. 

"Not just the supporters here in Japan, but also those back home – all the messages on WhatsApp, Facebook, the Twitter feeds. We know there are millions there, we know they support us.

"We love them. We can't wait to get back home."

South Africa are the first team to win the World Cup having lost a pool game, reeling off six straight victories after dropping their opening match to New Zealand.

Erasmus, who assumed head coach duties in March 2018, is stepping down from that role after the tournament but continuing as director of rugby. 

He was asked what he had identified as key priorities to get the Springboks back to the top when he first took charge of the team.

Erasmus said: "Just use our players and the intelligence, all the resources and supporters we have in South Africa. 

"There are so many good things we have in South Africa. In the past we always seemed to look at all the bad things.

"We just decided, 'Listen let's stand together and work really hard and play well on the field and all the other things from that will come out later'. 

"I think that's what we did and eventually now we have won the World Cup, so that's great."

Maro Itoje was named England's man of the match after their eviscerating 19-7 semi-final win over New Zealand. It was a crowded field for that particular honour but England's imperious lock touched perfection. Within three minutes of the 32-12 final defeat against South Africa, Itoje had inadvertently knocked a team-mate out cold. A missed catch from a restart 20 minutes later surrendered one of the England's brief periods of first-half parity.

Tom Curry was tenaciously terrific against the All Black, the 21-year-old underlining his status as one of this World Cup's breakout stars. Against the relentless Springboks, he was already finding the breakdown to be an entirely different proposition. When Itoje failed to claim, Curry knocked on. England then conceded a scrum penalty and Handre Pollard kicked the points, in what became a repeated narrative in Yokohama.

Ben Youngs was a frenetic metronome versus New Zealand, judiciously maintaining England's furious tempo. The team were unable to find any rhythm early on against South Africa – their attempts to avoid the Springbok arm wrestle amounting to haphazard windmilling. Given a chance to attack in the 11th minute, Youngs launched a howling pass over Anthony Watson's head and into touch.

George Ford's midfield combination with Owen Farrell has been the spark for all their best rugby under Eddie Jones. A footballer of immense skill and precision enjoying a fantastic tournament, Ford's most notable first-half contribution was a 27th-minute kick out on the full. He was replaced early in the second half.

Warren Gatland's mischievous words after his Wales team were edged out by South Africa in their semi seasoned this error-strewn stew.

"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," he said.

England undoubtedly left a peak they never troubled on Saturday, but not turning up suggests a team shrinking from the challenge and disappearing from view. All of England's toils, from errors with ball in hand to being obliterated at the set piece, came in plain sight. Only during a period of herculean Springbok defence after the half hour did they look something like the world's number one team.

Scrum half Faf de Klerk caught the eye as a yapping nuisance behind a formidable pack, although the introduction of South Africa's "Bomb Squad" replacement forwards did not turn the screw as expected, at least not initially.

The changing personnel after half-time coincided with the penalty count climbing. Referee Jerome Garces was a busy man as each passage played out on the borderline of fair and unfair. Owen Farrell and Handre Pollard stepped up to kick the points and we were moving in accelerated three-point bursts.

South Africa won their previous two World Cup finals without touching down. That arrangement would have suited the majestic Pollard and the Rainbow Nation roaring him on down to the ground.

Makazole Mapimpi had other ideas, popping a devilish kick over the England defence that Lukhanyo Am gathered smoothly. Two men hailing from South Africa's townships ensured another, Siya Kolisi would lift the Webb Ellis Cup – a triumph of symbolism and significance to arguably outstrip Nelson Mandela, Francois Pienaar, 1995 and all that. 

England were now a bedraggled, disconsolate rabble, barely recognisable from the team that brought the All Blacks to their knees as they wearily stooped to their own haunches. Cheslin Kolbe rubbed their noses in it with a delirious romp down the right wing. The Rugby Championship winners were world champions again, having made a total mockery of their pre-match underdog status.

As the trophy engraver got to work before full-time, it was a wonder South Africa did not score more points. Wearing the same number six as Pienaar and Mandela did 24 years ago, the inspirational Kolisi stood on the sidelines with no need to conceal his infectious smile. There could be no doubt when his supreme Springboks had played their final.

Siya Kolisi believes South Africa's Rugby World Cup final victory over England shows the country can "achieve anything if we work together as one".

The Springboks overpowered England in Yokohama to secure a 32-12 triumph, second-half tries from Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe sealing an emphatic win after six Handre Pollard penalties.

As a result, 24 years after Francois Pienaar accepted the Webb Ellis Cup from Nelson Mandela in one of sport's most iconic moments, there was another inspirational scene as Kolisi - South Africa's first black captain - lifted the same trophy.

In a stirring post-match interview, Kolisi said he hoped South Africa's success could inspire people throughout the nation.

"The people of South Africa have got behind us and we are so grateful to the people of South Africa," said Kolisi, who grew up in poverty and watched the Boks' 2007 World Cup win in a township tavern.

"We have so many problems in our country, but to have a team like this, we come from different backgrounds, different races and we came together with one goal and we wanted to achieve it. I really hope we've done that for South Africa, to show that we can pull together if we want to and achieve something.

"Since I've been alive, I've never seen South Africa like this. Obviously in '95, what the World Cup did for us [was special], and now with all the challenges we are having, the coach [Rassie Erasmus] just came and told us [after] the last game, 'we're not playing for ourselves any more, we're playing for our people back home'.

"That's what we wanted to do today and we really appreciate all the support, people in the taverns, people in the farms, homeless people, there were screens there, and people in rural areas, thank you so much.

"We appreciate all the support, we love you South Africa and we can achieve anything if we work together as one."

Maro Itoje was named England's man of the match after their eviscerating 19-7 semi-final win over New Zealand. It was a crowded field for that particular honour but England's imperious lock touched perfection. Within three minutes of the 32-12 final defeat against South Africa, Itoje had inadvertently knocked a team-mate out cold. A missed catch from a restart 20 minutes later surrendered one of the England's brief periods of first-half parity.

Tom Curry was tenaciously terrific against the All Black, the 21-year-old underlining his status as one of this World Cup's breakout stars. Against the relentless Springboks, he was already finding the breakdown to be an entirely different proposition. When Itoje failed to claim, Curry knocked on. England then conceded a scrum penalty and Handre Pollard kicked the points, in what became a repeated narrative in Yokohama.

Ben Youngs was a frenetic metronome versus New Zealand, judiciously maintaining England's furious tempo. The team were unable to find any rhythm early on against South Africa – their attempts to avoid the Springbok arm wrestle amounting to haphazard windmilling. Given a chance to attack in the 11th minute, Youngs launched a howling pass over Anthony Watson's head and into touch.

George Ford's midfield combination with Owen Farrell has been the spark for all their best rugby under Eddie Jones. A footballer of immense skill and precision enjoying a fantastic tournament, Ford's most notable first-half contribution was a 27th-minute kick out on the full. He was replaced early in the second half.

Warren Gatland's mischievous words after his Wales team were edged out by South Africa in their semi seasoned this error-strewn stew.

"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," he said.

England undoubtedly left a peak they never troubled on Saturday, but not turning up suggests a team shrinking from the challenge and disappearing from view. All of England's toils, from errors with ball in hand to being obliterated at the set piece, came in plain sight. Only during a period of herculean Springbok defence after the half hour did they look something like the world's number one team.

Scrum half Faf de Klerk caught the eye as a yapping nuisance behind a formidable pack, although the introduction of South Africa's "Bomb Squad" replacement forwards did not turn the screw as expected, at least not initially.

The changing personnel after half-time coincided with the penalty count climbing. Referee Jerome Garces was a busy man as each passage played out on the borderline of fair and unfair. Owen Farrell and Handre Pollard stepped up to kick the points and we were moving in accelerated three-point bursts.

South Africa won their previous two World Cup finals without touching down. That arrangement would have suited the majestic Pollard and the Rainbow Nation roaring him on down to the ground.

Makazole Mapimpi had other ideas, popping a devilish kick over the England defence that Lukhanyo Am gathered smoothly. Two men hailing from South Africa's townships ensured another, Siya Kolisi would lift the Webb Ellis Cup – a triumph of symbolism and significance to arguably outstrip Nelson Mandela, Francois Pienaar, 1995 and all that. 

England were now a bedraggled, disconsolate rabble, barely recognisable from the team that brought the All Blacks to their knees as they wearily stooped to their own haunches. Cheslin Kolbe rubbed their noses in it with a delirious romp down the right wing. The Rugby Championship winners were world champions again, having made a total mockery of their pre-match underdog status.

As the trophy engraver got to work before full-time, it was a wonder South Africa did not score more points. Wearing the same number six as Pienaar and Mandela did 24 years ago, the inspirational Kolisi stood on the sidelines with no need to conceal his infectious smile. There could be no doubt when his supreme Springboks had played their final.

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.

Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe kicked England when they were down and Handre Pollard scored 22 points as magnificent South Africa won the Rugby World Cup final with a 32-12 victory.

The Springboks overpowered the favourites at International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday to match the mark of three World Cup wins by New Zealand.

South Africa dominated the set-piece in a brutal and relentless performance, with England unable to get going after suffering an early blow when Kyle Sinckler departed with concussion.

Pollard produced a masterclass from the tee, while Mapimpi and Kolbe crossed in the second half as South Africa became the first team to be crowned Southern Hemisphere and world champions in the same year.

Four Owen Farrell penalties were all England could muster as South Africa defended magnificently, enabling Siya Kolisi to become the first black captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

Premiership leaders Northampton Saints made it three wins from three at the start of the new campaign with a convincing 40-22 victory over Harlequins on Friday.

Though they fell behind early on, Northampton responded in force with four tries in the opening 36 minutes, Taqele Naiyaravoro helping himself to a double.

Caden Murley went over for Harlequins' first try on the stroke of half-time, with Chris Robshaw then dragging the visitors back into contention following the restart.

James Grayson's kicking steadied the ship for the Saints, however, paving the way for Teimana Harrison to ensure the win with his second try of a high-scoring contest.

Northampton lead the way on 14 points, four ahead of Bristol Bears, who bounced back from their defeat to Quins last time out by dispatching Sale Sharks 16-10.

Three Callum Sheedy penalties put Bristol 9-0 up by the interval, and despite Chris Vui's yellow card reducing the hosts to 14, Ioan Lloyd went over for the first try to further their advantage.

It was a lead which proved unassailable for fourth-place Sale, despite Cameron Neild's late score. Still, his intercept try did secure the Sharks a losing bonus point from their long trip.

Leinster and Glasgow Warriors both ran in 50 points as they claimed emphatic Pro14 victories over the Dragons and Southern Kings respectively.

Group A leaders Leinster have made a fantastic start to the season and continued their fine form with a 50-15 triumph at the RDS Arena to make it five wins from five.

Michael Bent started things off early for Leinster, who never looked likely to relinquish their lead over the Dragons, which stood at 19-8 by half-time.

Harry Byrne – on his first Leinster start – also got in on the act, with the fly-half also kicking five conversions, with tries from Dave Kearney, Ronan Kelleher and James Lowe setting the stage for Hugh O'Sullivan's double to complete the rout.

Glasgow, meanwhile, will be hoping their 50-0 demolition of Southern Kings can kick-start what has been an indifferent campaign so far.

Warriors coach Dave Rennie has been identified by New Zealand as a possible replacement for Steve Hansen, but three defeats out of four matches had left Glasgow languishing in the lower reaches of Group A.

Rennie's side responded in force, however, running in five tries in the first half before adding a further three – including a penalty try – after the restart as their South African opponents wilted. 

Behind Leinster in the Group A standings are Ulster, who came from behind to overcome lowly Zebre 22-7 in Friday's other match.

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.

Iain Balshaw says England are yet to peak as they prepare to do battle with South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final on Saturday.

Eddie Jones' side dethroned New Zealand with a magnificent performance at International Stadium Yokohama last weekend, setting up a showdown with the Springboks seven days later.

The Red Rose are favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the second time after dominating the two-time defending champions.

Balshaw, part of the squad for England's only World Cup triumph in Australia 16 years ago, believes there is more to come from the current crop ahead of the biggest game of their lives.

He told Omnisport: "I'm not sure exactly what the average age of the England squad is, but I'd guess around 27, and the majority are coming into their prime.

"We've seen young players like Sam Underhill and Tom Curry come in and be outstanding and they have years ahead of them, they will only get better.

"I think these are such exciting times for English rugby, not only looking at the players who are out in Japan, but also those who did not make the squad and the strength in depth there is.

"There is great talent in the Premiership and academies, the game really is in great shape in England."

Balshaw said England must match the Springboks' physicality and be prepared to mix up their game if they are to emulate the class of 2003.

The jet-heeled former back added: "You've got to meet fire with fire. You have to be prepared for that big first collision and make sure you execute the plans that have been put in place.

"England have done that really well so far, they have been so well drilled and been expansive, but if they need to win playing boring rugby, then so be it. When you get into a final, winning is all that matters."

Phil Vickery says England must come out all guns blazing to prevent South Africa's 'Bomb Squad' from detonating their dreams of lifting the Rugby World Cup.

England are favourites to be crowned champions for a second time in Yokohama on Saturday after dethroning New Zealand with one of the great World Cup performances last weekend.

Eddie Jones' side can expect a massive battle against the ferocious Rugby Championship holders, who have the strength in depth to be able to bring fearsome forwards - christened the 'Bomb Squad' - off the bench.

Vickery, a World Cup winner 16 years ago before captaining his country in a defeat to South Africa in the 2007 final, warned England must use their full artillery and execute plans to perfection to ensure it is mission accomplished.

The former skipper told Omnisport: "South Africa are not going to do anything that England won't be expecting from them. They are going to be ultra-physical and confrontational, it's going to be a massive battle. 

"England are capable of winning that battle, no doubt about it, but if you'd have given me £100 before the tournament to back a winner, I would have put it on South Africa. It can't really come as a surprise they are in the final, they are the champions of the Southern Hemisphere. 

"Yes, they may not be playing spectacular rugby, but they are playing winning rugby and that is all that matters in a World Cup.

"England have the firepower, we have seen that in their incredible win over the All Blacks, but so do South Africa.

"We have to take them on physically, there is no avoiding that, but it is important we move them around and try to break the game up. Opportunities will come if they can do that and keep their discipline. 

"If England can go out and play with the same intensity they did against the All Blacks, that will be hard for any team to live with."

Vickery believes England's big-game experience should ensure they can handle the pressure and the former prop urged them to grasp an opportunity that can change their lives forever.

"There are guys who have played in Grand Slam deciders, a Lions Test series, European finals, et cetera. They know all about how to handle the big occasion." he added.

"The lovely thing they have ahead of them is a life-changing opportunity. Their names can be forever etched in history if they can win on Saturday. 

"They will have millions of people who are with them for every collision, every lineout, every scrum - looking back, it's amazing to think you are involved in something like that and I'm excited for them."

Rugby World Cup finalists South Africa and England are represented in nominations for World Rugby's Player of the Year award.

With the shortlists for the Coach of the Year and Team of the Year awards having been announced on Thursday, World Rugby revealed the six nominees for the individual men's award on Friday.

South Africa's Pieter-Steph du Toit and Cheslin Kolbe – who has overcome an injury to feature in Rassie Erasmus' line-up for Saturday's final – are the two Springboks up for the accolade.

Tom Curry is England's sole representative, with the 21-year-old having started in 13 of 14 Tests for Eddie Jones' side this year.

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones – his country's most-capped player – is also included, as is New Zealand star Ardie Savea.

The final spot is taken by Joe Taufete'e of the United States, who became the most prolific try scorer in front-row history when he went over for a hat-trick against Uruguay.

Ireland's Johnny Sexton won the 2018 award, having ended Beauden Barrett's two-year spell as the world's best player.

Like the Coach and Team of the Year awards, the winner of the Player of the Year accolade will be confirmed on Sunday in Tokyo.

Steve Hansen lauded the leadership of Kieran Read after New Zealand sent their outgoing coach and captain on their way with a 40-17 demolition of Wales in the Rugby World Cup bronze match.

The All Blacks showed little mercy as they responded to their semi-final defeat to England in style on Friday, dispatching Warren Gatland's Six Nations champions with ease to claim third place.

Ben Smith – also playing in his final Test – starred with two tries as the deposed world champions cruised in Tokyo.

Read, as he has throughout his glorious spell as captaincy, led the charge and Hansen, who has won 93 of his 107 Tests as All Blacks coach, singled out the 34-year-old as being the key factor in New Zealand's impressive response.

"Reado led really, really well this week. He's a great leader but I think this week, he needs to take a bow because he was hurting probably more than most," Hansen told a news conference.

"We saw that earlier in the week, but he put his own personal feelings to the side and knew this team had to get up.

"You sit there and see the performance they put in and you can be nothing but proud of it and I'm sure there are lots of New Zealanders and All Blacks fans all over the world that will be proud of what they did today."

Read insisted he was always going to savour his final appearance in the famous black jersey, even though New Zealand's failure to win an unprecedented third successive World Cup means the end to his international career is a bittersweet one.

"It's been a great day. I've tried to really make sure I stay in the moment and enjoy this day," said Read, who will continue his career in Japan with Toyota Verblitz.

"My emotions at the start of the week, I was able to get them all out of there, so today was about the process, trying to play well and soak it up and enjoy the occasion.

"I just love playing with this team and for my family to come out there at the end and share this special moment, it was great and I'll hold these memories for a long time.

"I look back at this World Cup and it'll take me a little bit of time to get over, but in the end I'll come back with some fond memories and remember today."

Warren Gatland said it would break his heart if Wales go "back into the doldrums" after his long reign ended with a 40-17 defeat to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup bronze final.

Gatland will return to his native New Zealand to take charge of the Chiefs after spending 12 years as head coach of the Six Nations Grand Slam champions.

But it was the All Blacks who gave their own outgoing head coach, Steve Hansen, a victory in his final match at the helm in the third-place play-off at Tokyo Stadium on Friday.

Gatland departs as Wales' greatest coach, and the British and Irish Lions boss is desperate for his replacement Wayne Pivac to be successful in a new era.

Asked about his emotions during his Wales swansong, Gatland said: "It's something I'd prepared myself for and then you start thinking about the next challenges in life.

"I really hope, for what we have achieved in the last 10 or 12 years, we have earned respect and put some respect back into Wales as an international team and the new coaches come in and continue to build on that.

"Because I think, [with] what we've achieved, it would break my heart if Wales went back into the doldrums."

He added: "There is an opportunity for the new group to come in and build on what we've created and improve on that.

"You know how tough it is to win a Six Nations. It's not to be greedy and expect to win it every year, but it's going and performing well in the Six Nations and continuing to get a few Six Nations titles along the way and make sure we are as competitive as we can be against the other top nations.

"I think we have been, and I want Wales to continue to build on that."

Gatland felt the challenge of facing the All Blacks just five days after a semi-final loss to South Africa was a lot to ask for his injury-hit squad.

"It was obvious to me, just watching the first half, that five-day turnaround after having played South Africa - and losing four players in that game - some players definitely struggled with the quick turnaround." said the 56-year-old.

"But I thought the bench gave us impetus when they came on, it was good and I'm pleased with that. But no complaints about the result, I thought the All Blacks deserved to win."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.