2019 Rugby World Cup

3 Key Matchups For World Cup Final

3 Key Matchups For World Cup Final

These three battles could dictate who lifts the Webb Ellis Cup on Saturday.

Oct 31, 2019 by FloRugby Staff
3 Key Matchups For World Cup Final

England face South Africa in what promises to be a brutally compelling Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama on Saturday.

Below we look at three key head-to-head contests as England look to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time and South Africa a third:

Ben Youngs v Faf de Klerk 

Scrum-halves set the tempo for a back division and these two are no exception.

The 30-year-old Youngs, son of former England scrum-half Nick Youngs, has overcome doubts about his fitness and seen off competition from the likes of Danny Care to establish himself as a first-choice number nine during 94 Tests in Red Rose colours.

Possessed of a sound passing and kicking game, Youngs is also capable of making a sniping break as he showed during England's semi-final win over reigning champions New Zealand where he was unlucky to have a try disallowed.

De Klerk may be a diminutive figure but that did not stop him squaring up to towering lock Jake Ball in South Africa's 19-16 semi-final win over Wales.

His box-kicking game can be a source of frustration even to loyal Springboks fans but Leicester's Youngs, who has played against Sale half-back de Klerk in the English Premiership, said: "He's a busy nine. He likes confrontation in terms of getting in your face in defence.

"A huge amount goes through him in terms of his kicking game so, he'll be pretty pivotal to how South Africa play."

Sam Underhill v Siya Kolisi 

Underhill and fellow flanker Tom Curry, dubbed the "kamikaze kids" by coach Eddie Jones, have been two of the stars of England's campaign in Japan.

The 23-year-old Underhill has been superb at the breakdown, securing vital turnover ball.

Kolisi's influence as the Springboks' first black captain is significant and it would be a landmark occasion in South Africa's sporting history were the 28-year-old to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

But he has not seemed quite the same force since a knee injury in May and former England fly-half Stuart Barnes even suggested the Springboks would be better off starting with Francois Louw, a Bath team-mate of Underhill, after the replacement back-row made a key steal late in the narrow semi-final win over Wales.

Maro Itoje v Eben Etzebeth 

At the age of 25, the dynamic Itoje has already played in 33 England Tests and three more for the British and Irish Lions.

The feminist, politics student, and poet is one of several Saracens players in the England squad, and his fingerprints figure to be all over this game. 

Few players in the world get as much done around the field as Itoje, and his performance last week against the All Blacks was a prime example of his utility. He can single-handedly break down an oppositions entire game plan, and he's sure not afraid to mix it up with other players. 

He now finds himself up against the imposing 6ft 8in (203cm) Etzebeth, a South African second row seemingly straight from central casting. Etzebeth is an absolute menace on defense and in the carry, often requiring at least two players to bring him to the deck. 

Despite the ongoing allegations of assault made back home against Etzebeth, the bruising lock has maintained the same level of focus and intensity that has made him into one of the world's best forwards. 

Maro Itoje and Eben Etzebeth are two of the most physical players on the planet, and you can be sure they will convene for some mighty collisions come Saturday. 

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