World Cup final insight: 2007 finalist George Chuter on the pressure of the final and key battles

2007 World Cup finalist George Chuter explains the pressure England's 2019 finalists will be feeling
2007 World Cup finalist George Chuter explains the pressure England's 2019 finalists will be feeling

2007 World Cup finalist George Chuter explains the pressure England's 2019 squad will be going through in the build-up to Saturday's final, how to handle it and the key battles this time around against South Africa.

You wait 12 years for a World Cup final and when you finally get back there you are faced with a familiar sight.

It might be a new generation of international stars, a different venue and a varied route to the final, but for England and South Africa the opponent is the same.

2007 was the last time both of these nations reached the World Cup final. That time in Paris the Springboks, overwhelming favourites, ground out a 15-6 victory over a brave, stubborn England, who had defied all logic and criticism to get so close to World Cup glory again.

Former Leicester Tigers hooker George Chuter was on the field that day, so knows better than most what England's class of 2019 are going through in the build-up to Saturday's final and how to prepare for the biggest match of your career.

Here, he talks Sporting Life through the build-up before answering some of the key questions relating to Saturday's bid for redemption...

The build-up

England's players in training ahead of the Rugby World Cup final
England's players in training ahead of the Rugby World Cup final

It's a bit different for this England team to us in 2007. We were rank outsiders and were given no chance, having been beaten 36-0 in the pool stages by South Africa, then rallied to get to the final. So it was all a bit surreal for us, we were just happy to be there and our over-the-top celebrations in the semi-final told you that.

This current squad always believed they would get there, so they are just very focused and you saw that after beating New Zealand, there were no big celebrations, just a focus on the next game.

It is a really strange week in the build-up. You try and just treat it as another game, as if it is just your normal job, but then every few moments it pops into your head 'this is the World Cup final - the biggest game in our sport' and your heart starts going.

I always say that professional sport is about lying to yourself. You always tell yourself you aren't as hurt or as injured as you really are, and on that week you are lying to yourself saying 'it's another game, no big deal'.

Training will be simple this week. They won't be changing much from what they've done so far. It is about maintaining the momentum and focus, keeping sharp but not overdoing it or trying to change or get too clever for that final match.

The week drags on and it can get frustrating, you just want to get it played.

On the day

England's players are trying to stay relaxed in the build up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup final
England's players are trying to stay relaxed in the build up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup final

It is a long, long day, as they aren't playing until the evening, which was the same for us.

The players will have a lot of nervous energy stored up. They will want to get some of that out of their system, but equally know they need a lot of it because it will help them through come game time, so it is a tough balancing act.

You just have to chill out and try to relax, but because their minds will be busy that's easier said than done. We just went out for coffee in the morning and had a walk around Versailles, trying to keep to the same routines.

At lunchtime, us as a forward pack went and practiced some line-outs in the hotel car park, just so we burnt off some of that nervous energy and felt we were doing something proactive and helpful for the final.

Killing time is always harder without a beer. You are in the hotel, twiddling your thumbs, switching from talking about rubbish to an intense conversation about your job that night, back to rubbish again, checking your watch...

The 2007 final

George Chuter and England were beaten in the 2007 World Cup final by South Africa
George Chuter and England were beaten in the 2007 World Cup final by South Africa

It was an incredible experience. I started on the bench, so actually it helped me take it all in. You are focused in the warm-up and not thinking of anything else. Then once you are sitting on the bench and looking around to see a sold out 80,000 stadium and thinking about the millions on TV watching it hits you - 'wow, this really is the World Cup final and I'm in it'.

When I got the call to go on I got a surge of adrenaline - 'you are about to play in a World Cup final'. Then quickly you refocus as you know you have a job to do to help your team - running on the field was then actually no different at all to any other game.

Can England repeat the intensity?

England's intensity and power in defence against New Zealand was a key to victory
England's intensity and power in defence against New Zealand was a key to victory

History shows it is hard for any team to beat New Zealand one week and repeat that level of performance in the next game, but I really think they can. I wasn't expecting England's quarter-final display to be as intense and as dominant as it was over Australia, but then they backed that up against the All Blacks, and that was quite incredible.

The key giveaway for me on Saturday was that none of the players were jumping around like they'd won the final - exactly what we did in 2007.

On Saturday they looked like they meant business. It was a look of 'yeah, we've won a game, but it's only given us the chance to play one more match, we've achieved nothing yet', which was the mindset of the winning side in 2003.

It is clearly a mentally strong team now. In the last two years they've been up and down, looked rudderless and mentally weak at key points, but since the quarter-final they look to have finally sorted those problems and found that mental strength.

Will South Africa change?

South Africa kicked 41 times against Wales in the World Cup semi-final
South Africa kicked 41 times against Wales in the World Cup semi-final

South Africa were so one-dimensional and slow against Wales. I do think they can change their game plan and style for the final and they will know they have to.

Rassie Erasmus is a very sharp and very good coach and I don't believe for a minute he's sitting there thinking 'you know what, we are just going to run at these English guys and physically smash them and that will do it'.

They've got to put some width on their game, some tempo into their game. They have to get their 10 and 12 playing like England's George Ford and Owen Farrell do, getting width on the ball and getting their dangerous back three into the match, as they are as quick and skilful as any in the world.

Otherwise they will just play into England's hands. If they just run at England then Sam Underhill and Tom Curry will tackle them all day long, Billy Vunipola will smash them back, and Erasmus will know that.

Listen to our Rugby World Cup Final podcast with interviews from former England players
PODCAST: George Chuter and Mark Cueto joins us for our Rugby World Cup Final podcast

Key battle one - The breakdown

This is England's back-row speed against South Africa's back-row strength and this is where I think England really have an edge.

I just don't think South Africa can play at the pace of England. Certainly if England play anywhere near how they did against the All Blacks, where they were hitting and winning every second ruck, then South Africa will have big problems.

I know South Africa are destructive at the breakdown - they are big, they get over the ball and they make it hard.

But when you look at England's back five there is a lot of pace in it, so they are going to get to the breakdowns quicker, they are going to be able to clear the South Africans out before they can get into a decent position to contest them.

That means quick ball for England and South Africa won't be able to live with that, that's why they slowed the game down so much against Wales in the semi.

Wales mucked up massively by then playing the same game, but England won't make that mistake.

You can't get into an arm wrestle with South Africa, you won't win that, so England can't let them drag them into it.

Key battle two - half-backs

The scrum-half battle: England's Ben Youngs v South Africa's Faf de Klerk
The scrum-half battle: England's Ben Youngs v South Africa's Faf de Klerk

As a former Leicester man I watch England and Tigers half-backs Ben Youngs and George Ford an awful lot, along with Sale's South African nine Faf de Klerk, and I know the the immense quality of them all.

I actually don't think Youngs has played that well for England for a while now. What he has done has been steady. He's not been the running threat he's been down the years. De Klerk, with New Zealand's Aaron Smith just behind, is the best nine in the world at the moment.

England should get quick ball and be on the front foot and that's meat and drink to your half-backs and there is no better fly-half in the game than Ford when he is on the front foot.

I think England have the tactical edge with their half-backs, they are both that little bit cleverer than their rivals. Ford over [South African fly-half] Handre Pollard is a better game manager and reads the player better. Pollard is a great kicker, but he isn't the same type of distributer as Ford.

Youngs needs to make sure his passes are zipping to Ford to allow him that extra bit of time on the ball to do what he does best and get those big plays going and pull the strings.

De Klerk is the key for South Africa, he is the game changer, the one that can win this for them.

I do have England as pretty comfortable favourites, but he is one player who could make the game difficult for them and put a spanner in the works, because he is that good.

Who will win?

I'm confident England will win this. They have built superbly and you feel they can still get better.

From being there in 2007 the message I'd give is just do the same again. Trust the same plans, plays and skills that have got you to the final and just put in the same performance again.

If England do that they will be world champions again.

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