Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Sam Underhill: Controlled aggression key for England against 'physical' South Africa in Rugby World Cup final

The openside flanker, part of England's "Kamikaze Kids" back-row combo alongside Tom Curry, said England would have to "turn up physically"

England forward Sam Underhill warned on Friday that there would be no place to hide faced with the brute force of South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final.

The openside flanker, part of England's "Kamikaze Kids" back-row combo alongside Tom Curry, said England would have to "turn up physically" against the hulking Springboks on Saturday if they hope to be crowned world champions for the second time.

"They are a pretty big side across the board, in the pack with some good ball carriers, and a big threat at the breakdown," said Underhill, a massive factor in England's 19-7 semi-final win over the All Blacks.

"Against Wales they counter-rucked pretty well," he added, pointing to South Africa's 19-16 victory over the Welsh last week.

"For any attack to function well you need good speed of ball. In defence there's not much you can do apart from turn up physically. A lot of what's underpinning a lot of aspects of the game is physicality. Get that right and hopefully we will be able to dictate the game."

England forwards coach Neal Hatley noted of two-time champions South Africa: "It's a pretty clear blueprint they've been using."

Underhill also preached the importance of "accuracy" and promised England would look to score tries in a repeat of the 2007 final, won 15-6 by the Springboks.

"It's all very well being aggressive but the key is to have control of that, and still do what you want in the game outside of just being physical.

"It's about picking your moments and being smart," shrugged the Bath flanker, who revealed that England had received good luck messages from Prince Harry, who included a photo of son Archie in an England jersey and will attend the final in Yokohama.

Underhill also paid tribute to England coach Eddie Jones, who was an advisor to Jake White when the Boks beat England in 2007 and on the losing side with his native Australia when England won the 2003 final in Sydney.

"Eddie has been brilliant, he's a coach who makes life as simple and as easy as it can be for a player," he said.

"He doesn't over-complicate things, which as a player is all you can really ask for. You get to this stage, in knockout games, there's more nerves, a lot of emotion.

"All you want to do is find something to focus on. Eddie doesn't give us too much to think about, so we can go out and focus on the small things, to make sure we get them right."

England, still the only northern hemisphere side to win the World Cup, can bury the memories of their 2015 nightmare for good if they complete a Tri-Nations sweep, having crushed Australia in the quarter-finals before stunning New Zealand.

"A lot of good teams have definitely gone through learning phases previously," said lock George Kruis on the subject of England's humiliating pool exit as hosts four years ago.

"It definitely helps that we went through that pain," he added. "It doesn't mean we're owed anything but it will go towards making a difference tomorrow.

"We know what's coming - it's about manning up and dealing with it."

Updated: November 1, 2019 11:13 AM

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