John Mitchell relishing physical battle with Boks

David Skippers

England's defence coach John Mitchell during the press conference at Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday October 29, 2019. See PA story RUGBYU England. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Strictly no commercial use or association. Still image use only. Use implies acceptance of RWC 2019 T&Cs (in particular Section 5 of RWC 2019 T&Cs) at URL:

England defence coach John Mitchell is relishing the prospect of a massive physical battle against South Africa in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup Final in Yokohama.

Mitchell believes his England team have what it takes to stand up to the physical threat of South Africa, as the pair collide in a repeat of the 2007 final.

“What we are going to witness are the two most powerful rugby teams in the world,” he told England Rugby. “They are strong, well-coached, the gain line is going to be huge. It’s a testament to both sides.

“Going back to our DNA, we feel it’s really important to us. We feel there is more to bring out and we are still going to have to work hard for each other.

“They play in a particular way, but you must always be prepared for anything that comes to us. They have a very clever (number) nine, who is sharp. ‘Polly’ (Handre Pollard) is in really, really good form. They have four second-rowers who love winning the gain line. They have their own armoury. It’s exciting.

“Last week, we dealt with a lot of speed, a lot of footwork. This week they are certainly going to be a team that is more direct.

“Pressure is definitely going to come that asks questions of your fundamentals, so that comes down to our core basics that are really important to us – supporting your mate on the floor and in the carry is really critical with the pressure likely to come in the air and on the floor.”

Mitchell added that England were excited by the week ahead and stressed no-one inside the camp was getting carried away following the impressive win over New Zealand in the semi-final.

“In reality, all we have done is present ourselves with another opportunity at the right end of the tournament,” he said.

“We want to get better, and we feel we can get better as well.

“Like every opposition in this competition, South Africa come with different threats and present different opportunities.

“We’ll just say focused on what we have to do, how we go about it, take it day by day. Everyone is really calm and eager to get on to their work – we have just got to go and earn it now.”

England number eight Billy Vunipola added that England would fight “fire with fire” and urged South Africa to “bring it on”, praising the impact of his side’s big tackles in the semi-final.

“It’s something that you probably can’t measure, but I think the best way to explain it is that it’s quite contagious,” he said of their defensive performance.

“It shows everyone it can be done, so everyone else tries to follow in the slip streams of Sam Underhill, Tom Curry and Maro Itoje.

“It’s very easy when you see it. A lot of people talk about it and it’s easy to sit here and say we want to be brutal, but you have to back those words up and those guys are probably the best at leading that area.”