The venue is Yokohama, the prize is the Webb Ellis Cup and the teams are England and South Africa. After 47 games, 261 tries, 28 yellow cards and eight red cards, it all boils down to this.
This is the 2019 Rugby World Cup final and only one nation can prevail – will it be England, conquerors of Australia and New Zealand, or can South Africa, victorious against Japan and Wales, spring a shock?
At the time of writing, England are priced at 2/5 to secure only their second Rugby World Cup crown. Eddie Jones’ side were sensational against New Zealand in the semi-finals, with some claiming that it was England’s best performance in the last 10 years.
Jones has named an unchanged team for the final and you can hardly blame him. If England play to that standard this weekend, the writing will be on the wall for South Africa. As good as the Springboks are, England were on another level last week.
George Ford showed exactly why Jones put so much faith in him with a superb performance and the Leicester Tigers star retains his place in the line-up. The kicking game is going to be crucial once again and Ford’s creativity and vision could give England the edge.
However, the Springboks will relish being underdogs ahead of this clash and they have an excellent record in World Cup finals. With two wins from two appearances in rugby union’s showpiece fixture, South Africa will fancy their chances of making it three out of three.
Cheslin Kolbe returns to the Springboks line-up and his presence will give South Africa a real boost ahead of Saturday’s clash. Capable of changing a game in the blink of an eye, Kolbe is worth a punt to score anytime at 11/4.
Defensively, South Africa will have to be perfect. England will test the Springboks from start to finish and the likes of Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Jonny May will exploit weaknesses in defence. A solid line may force England to change their game plan…
Faf de Klerk is world class and he will be key to their chances of victory. The Springboks star is capable of unlocking this England defence and his play, particularly his box-kicking, could be the difference between success and failure for South Africa.
The World Cup final is usually a tight affair and under 37.5 points has landed in three of the last four showpiece fixtures. With that in mind, taking the under line at 9/10 could be the way to go – this one could go down to the wire.
England cannot afford to sit back and think that the job is done – that win over New Zealand was outstanding but it has been and gone. Defeating the Springboks is easier said than done and every England player will have to be on top form.
It all boils down to how good England are. If Jones’ side emulate that performance against the All Blacks, the Webb Ellis Trophy will be heading to Twickenham. But if England are off colour and South Africa turn up at their brilliant best, we will have a game on our hands.
At risk of looking like a fool, I just can’t see past England after last week. New Zealand were second best in every department and Jones will have a plan to combat South Africa. In this instance, the heart AND the head say England will win the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
TIP: England to win the World Cup (2/5 with 888sport)
TRY SCORER: Cheslin Kobe to score anytime (11/4 with 888sport)
LONGSHOT: England to win by 6-10 points (4/1 with 888sport)
*Credit for the main photo belongs to Christophe Ena / AP Photo*