England’s Ben Earl is eager to tackle the Springbok back row as he has predicted Saturday’s World Cup semi-final in Paris will go down to the wire.
Earl has retained his place at No 8 for the big semi-final clash against the Springboks, after a terrific performance, including a key late interception that led to Owen Farrell’s successful penalty in the quarter-final against Fiji.
The 25-year-old, one of several Saracens players in England’s lineup, will be opposite Duane Vermeulen for the first time in his career and is looking forward to facing the Bok veteran.
” Look, from everyone who’s played against him – and I haven’t had the privilege – says he’s one of the smartest players, as well as one of the biggest,” Earl said
“I’ve got to bring the best of myself. I’ve got to play to my strengths.
“In the league and international rugby we play against some big teams and big players all the time, so it’s not something I am not used to, but like you said, it’s a World Cup semi-final, a new level.
“Sink or swim at this moment isn’t it? Let’s hope I swim.”
Many have predicted that England will be up against one-way traffic, favouring the Springboks to win by a large margin after the defending champions knocked out tournament hosts France.
However, Earl believes the Red Roses can take the game down to the final 20 minutes and that head coach Steve Borthwick has prepared them to kick on from there.
“It’s not something that is expressed, but as with most things with Steve, it’s almost like he’s prophesied this game’s coming at this point,” Earl said.
“I remember being back in July at Verona and we’re talking about the fourth quarter of games, doing fitness then training, doing fitness then training. Almost preparing us for times like this. Making changes in between sets. It’s something we’ve prepared for.
“We know that test matches for 60 minutes are normally nip and tuck, and it’s down to that last 20 – that’s not lost on us.”
Photo: CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP