'Springboks are smothering'

Updated: Oct 30, 2019, 10:50 IST | AFP | Tokyo

Rugby great Jonny Wilkinson urges England to maintain discipline to win World Cup final against South Africa

England rugby players during a training session at the Fuchu Asahi Football Park in Japan yesterday. Pic /AFP
England rugby players during a training session at the Fuchu Asahi Football Park in Japan yesterday. Pic /AFP

Tokyo: England's legendary World Cup-winner Jonny Wilkinson has warned against getting embroiled in a tight "arm-wrestle" against a "smothering" South Africa side in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final. The Springboks employed a tight game plan against Wales in the semi-final, using box kicks from scrum-half Faf de Klerk and keeping the ball in the forward pack as much as possible, squeezing the life out of the Welsh side.

Don't arm-wrestle: Jonny

Wilkinson, England's fly-half last time they won the Webb Ellis Cup in 2003, stressed that once teams are sucked into playing that way, it is difficult to switch to a more expansive running game. "You don't want to get into an arm-wrestle with those guys because it's very difficult when you're in a tight game to branch out and start getting into a wider game. When you're in a wider game, you can always bring it in," Wilkinson told reporters.

The Springboks are "a very smothering team. They can really get around you and make you feel like the pitch is tiny. Make you feel like there's about 20 of them," he said.

Explosive opponents

Jonny WilkinsonJonny Wilkinson

At the same time, they are "enormously explosive" and capitalise very quickly on any errors, so England will have to cut out mistakes, advised Wilkinson. In South Africa's 19-16 win against Wales, fly-half Handre Pollard had a flawless goal-kicking record, scoring 14 of the points including a nerve-shredding penalty with only five minutes to go.

"They need to maintain their discipline hugely because there is a goal-kicker in their team who punishes," said Wilkinson, who holds the record for most points scored in World Cups.

Another member of that 2003 World Cup-winning side, Lawrence Dallaglio, said England's 19-7 win against the All Blacks in the semi-final was "one of the great Rugby World Cup performances. Full stop".

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