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RWC: White wary of England's experience.
« on: October 20, 2007, 10:48:32 AM »

White wary of England's experience

PARIS, 19 October - Four years of blood, sweat and tears come down to a final 80 minutes on Saturday in what is shaping as a bone-crunching climax to the IRB Rugby World Cup.

England coach Brian Ashton was forced to make one change to the team that defeated France 14-9 in the semi-finals, wing Mark Cueto replacing Josh Lewsey, who has succumbed to a hamstring injury.

There had been speculation Mathew Tait would move to the wing and Dan Hipkiss take over from him in the centre, as happened when Lewsey went off against France.

However, Ashton felt it was important to stick to the partnerships that had helped overcome France and Australia in the knockout stages.

"Every week there's a discussion about every position," he said. "It was a very close call and I decided to stick to the combinations that got us to the final."

Springboks counterpart Jake White also made one change to his squad from the semi-final victory against Argentina, dropping former captain Bobby Skinstad from the bench for Wickus van Heerden.

"It's quite simple. There are no emotional decisions to make in rugby, only rational ones," said White.

White is also wary England have six members from the RWC 2003 winning team.

"They've got a group of players who have won a world cup," he said. "They can have team meetings and discuss what happens in the lead-up to a RWC final. I've only got one guy who can do that, Eddie Jones (technical adviser)."

Line-out decisive

The England forwards will again need to raise their performance, having been the backbone of the victories over France and Australia.

Much will depend on the battle between England's Ben Kay and Simon Shaw and Springboks pair Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield, regarded as the best second-row pairing in the world.

Kay said: "They don't give you much space to win your own ball. They are very effective on their own ball. It's not complicated but they have very athletic jumpers, know who's going in the air and get them in the air."

Victor Matfield, South Africa's key line-out man, believes this part of the game will also be decisive.

"We did very well against Argentina but I don't think they're in the same class as England's line-out, so it will be a bit more difficult but we're confident."

England full back Jason Robinson and South Africa big man Os du Randt will bow out after the match.

Robinson, who has had a stellar career in both rugby codes, will be looking to add to his medal collection, as will Du Randt, the only South African player to have played in a world cup final.

Robinson scored England's try in the RWC 2003 victory but also knows the pain of losing a world cup final from his time in rugby league.

"Winning a world cup is the best feeling that you can have in rugby but losing one, and I lost a rugby league world cup in 1995, can be the worst thing in your career."

Springboks captain John Smit best summed up the feeling in both camps when he said: "We haven't come all this way for nothing."

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