‘Boks turn blind eye to record’

What the English newspapers are saying ahead of the Test between England and South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

The weather has taken a turn for the worse here in London. It’s been raining in the English capital for two days now, and more rain is forecast for the clash at Twickenham on Saturday.

The talk around the match-up, however, is certainly heating up. Both squads will be announced on Thursday, and the local media has had plenty to say about the selections.

The Daily Telegraph has run a picture of flanker Tom Wood on the front of its sport section, along with the headline, ‘Return of Mr Average: Jones turns to Wood for clash with South Africa despite scathing assessment of flanker’.

The paper reminds its readers that Eddie Jones, now the England head coach, once referred to Wood as ‘distinctly average’. In the wake of several injuries to better openside prospects, Jones will have no choice but to back Wood in that position this weekend. Writer Gavin Mairs notes that the selection will demonstrate how ‘pragmatism has underscored Jones’s tenure’.

The Telegraph has also run a probable starting lineup: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Mako Vunipola.

Meanwhile, the paper has questioned South Africa’s attitude towards their unbeaten record against England. ‘Springboks turn blind eye to 10-year unbeaten run’ is the title of Daniel Schofield’s piece in today’s edition. A picture of Warren Whiteley is accompanied by the caption of ‘No clue: Warren Whiteley said he was unaware of the run against England’.

Schofield writes: ‘Yesterday, Whiteley seemed completely oblivious to their 12-game unbeaten record against England… Maybe Whiteley was channelling compatriot Charlize Theron’s Oscar-winning acting but judging by the blankest of expressions, his ignorance was genuine.'

The Times have interviewed England centres Owen Farrell and Jonathan Joseph. In both of these articles, there is a focus on the November Test series as a whole rather than the one-off against the Boks. This does, however, sum up the mindset of England at the moment. They are looking to win all four of their upcoming matches, and not just the clash with South Africa.

Joseph makes just one reference to the Boks: ‘They are more direct. They have bruisers up front. They try to run over you. Bosh you around.’

The Daily Mail has run a big article on Farrell, Billy Vunipola and Maro Itoje, the Saracens and England trio that has been shortlisted for the World Rugby Player of the Year award. Itoje is unavailable for the Test against the Boks due to injury.

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Jon Cardinelli