En­forcer Lawes has be­come Eng­land’s all-court su­per­star

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup Final -

not the touch­line. This way, the sup­port can stay in the close chan­nels, can see the ball, can com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter and can make a big­ger im­pact.

The new Lawes squares up, ball in two hands and goes right to the gain line, so he can al­most feel an op­po­nent’s breath on his face, and flicks the ball to Sinck­ler. Sud­denly, the op­po­si­tion are on their heels and in the brace po­si­tion.

It is a piece of ab­so­lute class – Lawes play­ing the All Blacks for suck­ers. Af­ter that, Sinck­ler does what we know he can: he has played fly-half as much as any ac­tual 10 this tour­na­ment and here he is at it again, pirou­et­ting, spin­ning and of­fload­ing to Ford, who has Mako Vunipola with him.

Eng­land are in be­hind again and there is gen­uine trou­ble in the New Zealand ranks. They have gone code red. By this time, Lawes, be­cause he was able to square up and was bal­anced when he passed, man­ages to beat ev­ery­one around the cor­ner and be­comes the next car­rier at the ruck un­der the posts.

This is when he be­comes the old Lawes who has al­ways been such a handful. Now is the time to bat­ter down the door, to suck in as many All Blacks as pos­si­ble, po­ten­tially score and if not – the worst case sce­nario – have a dis­jointed un­con­nected de­fen­sive line in front of you with play­ers in the wrong po­si­tion, hop­ing to de­fend against big men. Lawes thun­ders on, wins the gain line, and it re­quires three All Blacks to stop him. The fringes empty, Aaron Smith is left to do what he can against Tuilagi but it is not enough, and the centre crashes over.

It was a glo­ri­ous mo­ment for Tuilagi, but Lawes was the cat­a­lyst for the try. He played only 55 min­utes against New Zealand but what a shift it was. The man who was only in the team to tackle and scare peo­ple a few years back, had more touches in the build-up to this try – he even won the line-out that started the whole thing – than any­one else and with a va­ri­ety that far out­weighed his half-backs.

The soft, deft touch and pop af­ter chang­ing his an­gle of run, un­der­stand­ing that a hard carry would kill the mo­men­tum, and then the sledge­ham­mer carry to cre­ate the chance shows what an all-rounder he has be­come.

Lawes was ev­ery­where when he was on that pitch, with an abil­ity to do ex­actly what the sit­u­a­tion re­quired. If ever you wanted a pin-up for Ed­die Jones and his team’s abil­ity to find space against a tough Spring­bok side, or proof of Eng­land’s abil­ity to play what­ever is in front of them, heads up, brains on, then Big Courtney is your man.

A ma­gi­cian. Did not have his best game last week, al­though it was hardly his type of game. He only needs one chance to weave his magic. Has the abil­ity to drop into the line and re­lease his

Kolbe be­ing back shifts the dial in terms of the Spring­boks’ at­tack­ing threat. He is a mav­er­ick tal­ent who can lit­er­ally pro­duce some­thing out of noth­ing. Ja­son Robin­sonesque in the way he can step off both feet, he can wrig­gle through the tight­est gap. And once he is gone, he stays gone. He puts doubts in

Ba­si­cally a su­per-speedy open­side play­ing at 13. You get the im­pres­sion Am must have watched Brian O’driscoll as a kid, be­cause he jack­als in a sim­i­lar fash­ion; back on his feet and over the

It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say if you stop De Al­lende, you stop the Boks fir­ing. He is like Jamie Roberts at his pow­er­ful best.

I reckon there must be im­prints of both his shoul­ders on Wales wings. And he is a stone-cold killer on the blind­side. He waits for big run­ners to punch holes. By the time you are alive to it, it is too late. You only get a flash of him as he dashes past. de­fend­ers’ minds, be­cause if you rush up and miss him you are go­ing to get pun­ished. A huge, huge boost for South Africa and a huge boost for the World Cup, be­cause you want to see the top play­ers in ac­tion. And Kolbe is one of the best in the world. fly-half

Dan Big­gar’s rib cage. De Al­lende’s threat is one of South Africa’s most po­tent weapons and if you nul­lify him, I sim­ply don’t see how the Boks win this match.

A mas­sive player in ev­ery sense. He was huge last week, and he is a huge bloke. Think Henry Honi­ball. Pol­lard is well ca­pa­ble of duck­ing back and pow­er­ing through a pile of bod­ies if you mark

The key to ev­ery­thing. Like the French, South Africa play through their No 9 and De Klerk (be­low) wants to be in­volved in ev­ery­thing. He has real en­ergy and pres­ence, does not back away from a

De Al­lende. Smashed his kicks last week, and a real dan­ger if South Africa get over the gain line. He and De Klerk are not com­pletely on the same wave­length, but are supreme ath­letes.

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