Don’t fall for Springboks’ trap: Jonny Wilkinson
England legend Wilkinson warns against S. Africa's smothering game plan of arm-wrestling and box-kicks
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 their 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.
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." Wilkinson told reporters.
"When you're in a wider game, you can always bring it in.
"They 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."
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.
"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".
"Obviously, given what England did to New Zealand, they will be favourites... but it's going to be difficult," predicted Dallaglio.
The last two matches of the Rugby World Cup (RWC) will be screened live at the Singapore Sports Hub on Friday and Saturday.
Fans can catch Friday's third-place play-off between Wales and New Zealand and Saturday's England-South Africa final at the OCBC Square, thanks to Societe Generale, the RWC's worldwide partner and official bank, in partnership with the Singapore Rugby Union and Sports Hub.
Both matches kick off at 5pm, but there will also be a rugby clinic for children, along with stage programmes and fringe activities from 3pm.
He pointed to the Springboks' impressive defensive record - they have conceded only four tries, and two of those were within the space of five minutes against the All Blacks.
Meanwhile, Billy Vunipola has promised England will "come out firing" against South Africa, revealing he has been getting rugby tips from his aunty.
"We've got to back up what we did last week - it can't be a fluke," Vunipola said yesterday.
"Obviously, they're big, big people, but then we've got a few big blokes on our team.
"They've already come out and said they're going to fight fire with fire."
But Vunipola admits he and older brother Mako are struggling to find tickets for their "massive" family - and that some relatives have had a little too much to say this week.
"They can be a distraction," he smiled. "Trying to give you pointers on how to play rugby.
"My aunty's always great for that, trying to tell me how to play No. 8 - and to my brother as well." - AFP