Friday, September 14, 2007

England vs South Africa

England rugby team
World Cup holders England take on South Africa in a crunch Pool A clash at the Stade de France on Friday night.
Andy Farrell will play the biggest game of his Rugby Union career on Friday night when he lines up at fly-half in the World Cup showdown against South Africa.
South Africa rugby team

Remarkably, it will be Farrell's first senior game of Rugby Union in the number 10 shirt since he switched codes to join Saracens. Farrell has been promoted to the starting line-up after Olly Barkley was ruled out because of a hip injury.

With Jonny Wilkinson battling to recover from an ankle ligament sprain, England head coach Brian Ashton has taken the decision to go with Farrell.

Barkley, comfortably England's best player against the United States in Lens last Saturday, underwent a scan yesterday after being injured in training.

The problem is with his left hip, and England plan to issue a further medical update next Tuesday.

With skipper Phil Vickery sidelined because of a two-match suspension, Leicester flanker Martin Corry will take over as captain against the
Springboks.

Matt Stevens moves off the bench to replace Vickery, with Perry Freshwater joining the substitutes.

England have also announced that after careful consideration they will not appeal Vickery's suspension, which means he is ruled out of the pool games against South Africa on Friday and Samoa in Nantes next week.

If, as expected, England lose to South Africa, then they will effectively crash out of the World Cup if they follow that performance up with another defeat against Samoa.

Ashton, meanwhile, has finalised the replacements' bench for the South Africa clash, with Peter Richards joining his fellow scrum-half Andy Gomarsall on the bench, together with Newcastle's Mathew Tait, who has recovered from illness.

England's World Cup campaign is in danger of total melt-down, given the injury and disciplinary problems they have encountered just 10 days after arriving in France.

It is a huge ask for Farrell, whose Union career has been stalled by injury problems, to lead their victory bid against a South African side that is ranked among the tournament favourites.

Ashton could have summoned a replacement from his stand-by list to join the squad, but at this stage both Barkley and Wilkinson are being given more time to prove their fitness ahead of further challenges.

Springboks coach Jake White believes his squad can put the Schalk Burger saga to one side and maintain their concentration for Friday night's crucial clash against England.

The Springboks are set to appeal flanker Burger's four-match ban tomorrow morning.
He was suspended after being cited for a dangerous tackle on Samoa scrum-half Junior Polu during last Sunday's Pool A encounter in Paris.

As things stand, Burger will miss remaining pool appointments with England, Tonga and the United States, plus a potential quarter-final against Wales or Australia in Marseille.

White said: ``We are not happy about the decision, we will appeal it.


``Of course I was shocked. You lose a player like Schalk Burger, you get told at one o'clock in the morning after the hearing, and it is not something that you take without being shocked about it.''


Regarding the appeal, White added: ``We will concentrate on the rugby aspects, and the legal team will concentrate on the legal aspects.

``Hopefully, we can get some more clarity before the kick-off on Friday.


``To be fair, I don't think they can (get an appeal result) before Friday. That would be a real blessing, but it is in their hands.


``Schalk is not happy, I mean the guy is still relatively young, and he wants to play as much as he can.


``I want to make it quite clear though, that we are a squad of 30 players.

``The one thing I am totally confident of is that this group of players have been through enough adversity within the last four years to be able to rise to another challenge.''


South Africa have also lost centre Jean de Villiers from their plans after he suffered a tournament-ending bicep injury during the Samoa encounter.

But England are in even more disarray, with captain Phil Vickery banned, while both goalkicking fly-halves Olly Barkley and Jonny Wilkinson are sidelined through injury.

Springboks prop Os du Randt said: ``We have always said this is the one game that we need to win to put us on the right track.


``It is a very important match, so we just have to go out there and play the best we can.


``It is always bad to lose Schalk, but we played without him last year. We have a guy like Wickus (van Heerden) coming into his place that will do really well.


``I don't think you will ever substitute Schalk, but we will just have to cope with that and do the best we can.''


Centre Wynand Olivier added: ``Obviously it was a big shock for us. We didn't think Schalk was going to get four weeks, especially after Jean de Villiers got injured as well, so it was a big blow.


``We are a good squad of 30 guys, and we have been training together for the last two or three years, and I think someone can slot in Schalk's place and maybe do the same job.


``But we are definitely going to miss Schalk because he is a world-class player.''


Blue Bulls flanker Wickus van Heerden will replaced the banned Burger against England in Paris on Friday night, while Francois Steyn takes over at inside
centre instead of de Villiers.

Natal prop BJ Botha starts ahead of CJ van der Linde, who has to be content with a place on the bench, where he is joined by 31-year-old former Springboks skipper Bob Skinstad.

Match Facts:
- The countries have met on 28 occasions - South Africa lead the series 15-12, with one draw.

- England's record win over the Springboks was a 53-3 victory at Twickenham in 2002, while South Africa boast a best of 58-10 in Bloemfontein earlier this year.

- England's last World Cup defeat came during the 1999 tournament - a quarter-final loss to South Africa in Paris.

- England need 15 points on Friday to reach 1,000 in World Cups, a milestone only previously reached by New Zealand and Australia.

- South Africa have only lost one pool game in their World Cup history - against England in Perth four years ago.

- Wing Jason Robinson's try against the United States in Lens last Saturday was England's 100th World Cup touchdown.

- England have only won four games away from Twickenham since the 2003 World Cup final, succeeding in Rome (twice), Edinburgh and Lens.

- England and South Africa have both lost key players through suspension for Friday's game - England captain Phil Vickery and Springboks flanker Schalk Burger.

- South Africa have won their last three Test matches against England.

- Defeat for England on Friday would effectively leave them needing to beat Samoa next week to stay in the tournament. No Rugby World Cup holder has previously exited at the pool stage.

South Africa: P Montgomery; J P Pietersen, J Fourie, F Steyn, B Habana; B James, F du Preez; O du Randt, J Smit (capt), B J Botha, B Botha, V Matfield, W van Heerden, J Smith, D Rossouw.

Replacements: B du Plessis, C J van der Linde, J Muller, B Skinstad, R Pienaar, A Pretorius, W Olivier.

England: J Robinson (unattached); J Lewsey (Wasps), J Noon (Newcastle), M Catt (London Irish), P Sackey (Wasps); A Farrell (Saracens), S Perry (Bristol); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), M Regan (Bristol), M Stevens (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), B Kay (Leicester), M Corry (Leicester, capt), T Rees (Wasps), N Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: G Chuter (Leicester), P Freshwater (Perpignan), S Borthwick (Bath), L Moody (Leicester), A Gomarsall (Harlequins), P Richards (London Irish). M Tait (Newcastle).

1 comment:

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