England take on South Africa on Saturday in a repeat of the 2007 Rugby World Cup Final.
After a blistering team performance against reigning champions New Zealand in the semi-finals, Yahoo Sport UK exclusively asked a panel who will be the key player if England are to secure a second Webb Ellis Cup.
Speaking at a Heineken rugby event in Tokyo, former Wales winger Shane Williams, former Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip, and South Africa’s World Cup winning captain and hooker John Smit were all quizzed on which English player could make the difference:
Shane Williams (87 caps for Wales):
“I think you need a big player to step up to the plate. I think even though Farrell had a good game [against New Zealand], the forwards dominated that match. I thought [Tom] Curry and [Sam] Underhill were fantastic. Maro Itoje has just got better as the tournament's gone on.
But in a World Cup final, when it's a bit edgy and you need your points scored, you might need someone like Owen Farrell to step up to the plate. He's a big game player and he is someone that could emulate what Johnny [Wilkinson] did 16 years ago and win the World Cup with the boot.”
John Smit (won the 2007 Rugby World Cup with South Africa, 111 caps):
“I think that Owen Farrell, as a captain, [he] always keeps the group together. The other thing about Farrell is he's really tough, he makes good decisions and the group respect him. He’s come a long way from an 18-year old at Saracens to England captain and he's grown a huge amount.
He’s an integral part of the group because he holds a really important position in 10 or 12, and the fact that he's got the captain's armband.”
Jamie Heaslip (95 caps for Ireland):
“Although Maro Itoje got man of the match [against New Zealand] but I think you could have given it to a number of players. I think that's the strength. And I personally think it's very hard to take an individual out of that team and give him all the plaudits just because of the cohesive nature.
“If it's not Itoje carrying the ball or being a nuisance at ruck time, or putting in a huge tackle it's someone like Underhill. And if it's not him it’s someone like Curry, and if it's not him it's someone Billy Vunipola and if it's not him it's Jamie George, [Kyle} Sinckler… the list just goes on and on. And then we're talking about the backs, you've got [George] Ford - [Owen] Farrell combo and they've shown they can do it if it's just one of them and shown they can do it together.
“These are really good headaches for Eddie Jones coming into the final with who he goes with. I just find it very hard to pick out an individual because, really, I think the strength of that England team is that they got such fire power. You can have plenty of teams that have lots of firepower but play like individuals. This team play as a collective, and that's really dangerous.”
John Smit, Shane Williams and Jamie Heaslip were talking on behalf of HEINEKEN. HEINEKEN is a Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, and HEINEKEN’s relationship with World Rugby is one of the most recognisable and longest-standing partnerships in sport.
The Rugby World Cup 2019 gives fans around the world an opportunity to engage with the tournament through Heineken’s ‘Universal Language of Rugby’ campaign. #HeinkenRugby
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