In Review

2019 Rugby World Cup final: England vs. South Africa preview, team news, starting XVs, predictions

England head coach Eddie Jones and his unchanged team have ‘no fear’ of taking on the physical Springboks

England vs. South Africa 

  • What: 2019 Rugby World Cup final 
  • When: Saturday 2 November  
  • Where: International Stadium, Yokohama, Japan 
  • Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
  • UK start time: 9am  
  • UK TV coverage: live on ITV 

England head coach Eddie Jones has selected an unchanged team for the Rugby World Cup final against South Africa on Saturday.

The only change to the squad that demolished New Zealand in last weekend’s semi-final is the appearance on the bench of scrum-half Ben Spencer, who replaces the injured Willi Heinz.

Otherwise Jones has kept faith with the players who produced arguably the greatest 80 minutes of English rugby history against the reigning world champions. 

Captain Owen Farrell, wing Jonny May and prop Kyle Sinckler have all been passed fit having taken knocks against the All Blacks.

No fear

“We will go and play with no fear,” said Jones. “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.”

England will run out at the International Stadium in Yokohama with the youngest team ever to start a World Cup final in the professional era. 

The average age of the starting XV is 27 years and 60 days, younger by 11 days than Australia’s team in 2003 (coached by Jones), who were beaten by England.

Young and experienced

Yet despite their youth, England boast an average of 51 caps per player, the third highest number in a World Cup final behind New Zealand (65) and Australia (56) in the 2015 final.

In contrast, although South Africa are on average older than England - 28 years and 208 days - their caps-per-man number is lower at 46.

Kolbe back as Boks make one change

Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus has made just one change to the starting XV that beat Wales in their semi-final. Cheslin Kolbe has recovered from an ankle injury and is brought back on the wing in place of S’bu Nkosi. 

Once again Erasmus has crammed his bench with forwards, selecting six out of the eight substitutes, an indication that South Africa will try and do to England what they have done to Japan and Wales in the knockout stages and batter them into submission.

England head coach Eddie Jones and South Africa head coach Rassie Erasmus
Forget the favourites tag

“It will be a physical battle but with a lot of tactical stuff involved,” said Erasmus, who sidestepped a question about which team is favourite

“The debate over favourites is irrelevant. The dynamic of your environment is what counts. We have worked really hard and we are where we want to be. It is not about who is most up for the game because both teams will want it. I think it will come down to which team tactically handles the game the best.”

Jones knows what to expect on Saturday. “South Africa will probably play a similar type of game they have played all tournament,” he said. “So we need to 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.”

Kamikaze twins

One area where England will look to dominate is at the breakdown, as they did against the All Blacks. 

The Springboks’ flankers are big and powerful, and carry the ball well, but they are likely to struggle to win turnovers against the smaller, more agile England duo of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill. 

Jones calls them his “Kamikaze twins” and he’ll be hoping they shatter South Africa’s World Cup dreams on Saturday.

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RWC final starting XVs: how the teams will line up

England starting XV
  • 15. Elliot Daly, 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Manu Tuilagi, 12. Owen Farrell (captain), 11. Jonny May, 10. George Ford, 9. Ben Youngs; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Maro Itoje, 5. Courtney Lawes, 6. Tom Curry, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Billy Vunipola
  • Replacements: 16. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17. Joe Marler, 18. Dan Cole, 19. George Kruis, 20. Mark Wilson, 21. Ben Spencer, 22. Henry Slade, 23. Jonathan Joseph
South Africa starting XV
  • 15. Willie Le Roux, 14. Cheslin Kolbe, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Handre Pollard, 9. Faf de Klerk; 1. Tendai Mtawarira, 2. Mbongeni Mbonambi, 3. Frans Malherbe, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Lood de Jager, 6. Siya Kolisi (captain), 7. Pieter-Steph Du Toit, 8. Duane Vermeulen
  • Replacements: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Steven Kitshoff, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. RG Snyman, 20. Franco Mostert, 21. Francois Louw, 22. Herschel Jantjies, 23. Frans Steyn
The All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup in 1987, 2011 and 2015

David Rogers/Getty Images

RWC final betting odds

Prices according to Oddschecker

RWC winner 
  • England to win: 2/1 
  • South Africa to win: 9/4 
  • Draw: 25/1 

Pundit predictions: who will win the RWC final?

Warren Gatland, Wales head coach: hopes England win

“I thought England were excellent against the All Blacks - it was the best I’ve seen England play in the last 10 years. I thought they were outstanding. I think it will be a great final with two physical teams and I hope a northern hemisphere team can win the World Cup. It would have been great if two of us could have been in the final, but it wasn’t to be.”

Sir Ian McGeechan, The Daily Telegraph: England 27 South Africa 15

“England haven’t come across a team who will challenge them as hard as South Africa at the set-piece or the breakdown. They will need to remain patient and the first two breakdowns will be crucial. With South Africa’s strength at the one-on-one contact, England might well have to be more patient in getting the front foot ball which has defined their game. But if they see off the initial storm, and start controlling territory, then I think they have the tools to hurt South Africa who likewise have not come up against a team of England’s physicality.” 

Will Greenwood, The Daily Telegraph: England 21 South Africa 18

“Anyone assuming that England are going to walk this based on the New Zealand performance needs to think again. Fortunately I don’t think Eddie Jones or his players are thinking that way, and I’m backing England to produce a gutsy performance and edge a thriller.” 

Ben Burrows, Independent: England 20 South Africa 14

“England are the better team but that never really matters to South Africa. They will scrap and scratch and spoil and make England earn a second Webb Ellis Cup. It’ll be cagey and close but just as New Zealand did in the pool stage, England have the attacking weapons to make any Springbok error count. England to win 20-14.”

Jonathan Liew, Independent: England 14 South Africa 6

“As is often the case in big games when you have far too much time to think about them, I’ve been oscillating back and forth on this all week. Partly the reason for this is that for their many virtues, neither of these sides is quite good enough to dictate terms for 80 minutes. It’ll be scrappy, butt ugly at times, but ultimately I can see England carving out enough openings to make the difference. [Sam] Underhill to finally get his try. [Owen] Farrell to hold his nerve with the boot. England’s bench to hold tight at the end. England to win 14-6.”

The Daily Telegraph: England by seven points 

“England must go into this match as favourites after defeating the All Blacks convincingly. South Africa will need to up their game after an underwhelming display against Wales.” 

Tom Dutton, London Evening Standard: England 21-10 South Africa 

“Form goes out of the window on occasions such as these but England will be favourites going into the final after sending the dominant back-to-back champions packing - and in some style - on Saturday. Eddie Jones’s men must be disciplined, as they have been so far in the tournament, as Handre Pollard won’t need a second invitation to punish them with the boot.”

Quintin van Jaarsveld, South Africa by three

“Where we believe the Springboks will have the decisive advantage is their bench. The ‘Bomb Squad’, as they’ve dubbed themselves, have been their ace in the hole at the World Cup, the six-two forwards-back cavalry going well beyond adding fresh impetus off the pine. They’ve wreaked havoc individually – RG Snyman, Francois Louw and 2007 World Cup winner Frans Steyn making big plays at crucial times with Herschel Jantjies waiting in the wings as an x-factor match-winner – and collectively, with the front-row combination of Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Vincent Koch being just as well-oiled and dominant as the starting trio. It’s because of their superior depth that we are backing the underdog Springboks to come out on top in a hard-fought cliffhanger.” 

Gareth Jones, Sporting Life: England should win

“There is no such thing as a one-sided final, even with New Zealand’s dominance in over the last eight years. This game could turn on a red card, a controversial decision, a moment of magic or madness. But having built so well during this tournament, staying injury free and with the extra intelligence, experience and, let’s be honest, the sly element Jones brings to England, we should expect to see captain Owen Farrell lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy. England have proved they have absolutely everything in their arsenal and they still have more in the tank. They have the born winners in the likes of Farrell, George Ford and Jamie George and that is another factor in England’s favour. They should win.”

Ash Wheldon, The Stats Zone: England to win

“England will get the chance to avenge their 2007 RWC final defeat to South Africa as the two nations square off again in Japan. The Springboks will prove a difficult opponent but having beaten the might of the All Blacks, the English will be confident and can lift the trophy for the second time. It will be important for England to keep their discipline and composure against the physical Springboks but if they can play their own game, they should be able to come out on top.”

Rohit Ponnaiya, England to win

“While South Africa should keep the score close early, expect England’s superior fitness and game management to help them pull away in the second half. With England peaking, back them to win their second World Cup.”

Rod Kafer, Fox Sports Australia: England 19 South Africa 15

“England will be prepared as well as any team has been prepared to play a final. If they can get back to last week’s intensity, they win comfortably. However, I am not certain that they can. England are not spent but the result will be closer than many think. England by four, 19-15.”

Steve Luckings, The National UAE: Jones to have last laugh

“A tight first half before England open up in the second to pull away by 7-10 points. England world champions for a second time.” 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For analysis of the biggest sport stories - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news - try The Week magazine. Get your first six issues for £6–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

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