England’s World Cup final defeat against South Africa was desperately disappointing.The way England have played at this World Cup and the depth of players they have as a group, this was absolutely the right squad to challenge for the trophy.England fans will all be feeling totally dejected but nowhere near as upset as the players and management will be.They were so far off winning that game. There is a weird part of me that, even though I feel totally dejected, does not feel quite as bad as if South Africa had nicked it at the death with a last-minute penalty or drop-goal. England just simply were not good enough.I never felt for one minute that England were in a position to score points then run away with it. It was going to be a battle to the death and unfortunately the Springboks seemed to be more capable of winning a World Cup final.England have learned a big lesson. Those players are going to remember that for the rest of their lives and hopefully store it up to say they are never going to feel like that again, never going to make those mistakes under that sort of pressure again and they will come back as better players.
‘South Africa’s triumph will inspire a nation’
England head coach Eddie Jones has had a blinding tournament and, tactically, has been great throughout.But on this occasion South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus was awesome. Wherever England attacked, the Springboks had defence.They were very disciplined. They were tactically spot on. They played in the right areas. They had the balance of their kicking game opposed to when it was on to run – they chose the right time and made good decisions.We have been praising Jones and waxing lyrical about how perfect England’s build-up and preparation has been.But ironically they lost because they looked like they did not have the ability to adapt on the field when South Africa were not playing the way that England expected.It is very difficult to change on the field, but it has been a fairly common trait of England sides over the past 10 years of not being able to adapt under that type of pressure.South Africa were fantastic in the set-piece, scrums and line-outs, and the breakdown. Faf de Klerk was running the show from scrum-half.England very early on were chasing shadows rather than having a broader view that South Africa were playing in a different way so they needed to change it up.
Unfortunately they tried to play the same way against a team that were just lapping up the contact.The senior England players should have stood up and realised what they were doing what was not working.There were some key individuals who needed to stand up in a leadership role under that extreme pressure. In those environments, it really stands out what a difference it makes to have a captain in the forward pack.
Owen Farrell has been a great leader for England but it needed a vice-captain to step in up front, like Kieran Read or Sam Warburton would have done.
‘The Springboks will be heralded as heroes’
Siya Kolisi is South Africa’s first black captain
There are millions of dejected England fans all over the world. Ordinarily, there would be no reason to reflect positively on that type of result.
But, looking at the larger picture that South Africa winning that game paints, I do not think any other final has a bigger political story to tell than this one.