Sam Underhill says that England have to overpower South Africa’s forwards on Saturday to have any chance of winning the World Cup final. JON CARDINELLI in Tokyo reports.
This England team has developed a reputation for shattering records and expectations. On Friday, at a press conference staged at World Rugby’s based in Tokyo, Underhill attempted to break another by using the word ‘physicality’ at least 30 times.
England are bracing themselves for a streetfight of epic proportions. Underhill, as well as forwards coach Neil Hatley and lock George Kruis, spoke about meeting the Bok challenge head on.
‘Physically, it’s important to turn up and take that part of the game away from them,’ said Underhill, one of the star performers in England’s monumental win over the All Blacks last week.
‘That win has given us confidence. It’s brought us closer as a team. The Boks are different to the All Blacks, though. They’re more direct.
‘There’s a bigger set-piece focus. Their maul has been really effective and they pride themselves on their scrum. I guess that all just reiterates the idea of physicality.’
Underhill and Tom Curry have received due praise for their performances at the breakdown over the past six weeks. This Saturday, the England back row will face a different sort of challenge against loose forwards Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and – perhaps the best South African breakdown exponent of all – Duane Vermeulen.
‘They’re a big threat at the breakdown,’ Underhill said. ‘They counter-rucked pretty well against Wales.
‘We need quick ball for our attack to function. On defence, we can’t do much in terms of what they’re going to bring unless we also turn up and match their physicality..
‘It’s always good to have a physical challenge. The difference is accuracy and control. You can’t just be aggressive, you have to be in control to achieve what you want in the game.’
Underhill added that England received a special message of support from a member of the royal family this week. England are hoping to win their first World Cup title since 2003.
‘Prince Harry sent us a message and a picture of his little one in an England shirt,’ said Underhill. ‘That was pretty special.’
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