What the English newspapers are saying ahead of the Test at Twickenham on Saturday.
Qatar has been cleared to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup, and so today’s newspapers are chock-a-block with comment and related content. It’s evident that rugby has had to fight for space in the sports pages.
‘Lancaster’s men must begin to match words with deeds’ reads the title of Stuart Barnes’s column in the Times. Barnes believes that while Stuart Lancaster has turned England into a team that can be respected once again, their win record of 60% is not good enough.
Barnes is patently uncertain about the current leadership in the team itself. ‘This is a squad full of grit and hard graft, but where is the cool, streetwise ability to nick a tight game?’ He also makes mention of their failure to win in the last 11 Tests against South Africa. ‘Industry alone will not suffice. Nor should it at this level.’
‘Lancaster tells England it’s time to deliver’ says the headline in the Daily Telegraph. The England coach tells Mick Cleary that survival is no longer enough for England, and as the writer puts it, ‘they have to rise from the canvas and overcome these [southern hemisphere teams] if their credibility as World Cup contenders is not to lose its sheen completely’. In this article, Lancaster denies that issues such as the homophobia at Twickenham or recent threats by Samoa to withdraw from next week’s clash have served as a distraction.
The Telegraph has also run a detailed statistical analysis in today’s edition titled: ‘Why Boks are so formidable’. Daniel Schofield looks at why physicality is in the South Africans’ DNA, the Boks’ improved discipline, and how Heyneke Meyer has granted ‘more freedom to the flyhalf and fullback to play outside structure’.
Schofield also notes the strength of the Boks’ set pieces, particularly when Victor Matfield is involved at the lineout. The article describes the maul as South Africa’s ‘most potent weapon’, but also points out that Ireland neutralised this threat in Dublin last week.
Today’s Guardian also has Lancaster laying down the law. ‘Another 10% or you will miss next year’s World Cup, warns Lancaster’, is the title of the main rugby piece.
Robert Kitson reveals that some players will not feature in 2015 if they fail to perform against the Boks on Saturday. Kitson suggests that scrumhalf Danny Care will need to produce a sharper tactical-kicking showing, and that No 8 Billy Vunipola will have to make a bigger impact at the gainline. Kitson believes England enforcer Courtney Lawes will have a massive role to play in countering the likes of Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger.
The Daily Mail wonders if Lawes, who took a knock to the head in the clash against the All Blacks and only recently passed a concussion test, is ready for such a challenge. ‘We’ve played by the book over Lawes, insists coach’ is the title of a piece in today’s edition.
Chris Foy notes that under the previous guidelines, Lawes and hooker Dylan Hartley, another player who took a knock last Saturday, would have spent a mandatory three-week period on the sidelines. However, Lancaster, feels that every box has been ticked, and that it's safe for the big lock to start against the notoriously belligerent South Africans.