Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Key talking points ahead of England vs. South Africa

England complete their autumn program when South Africa host Twickenham in a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final on Saturday.

Here the PA news agency examines five talking points heading towards the clash.

For the second year running, Springboks rugby director Rassie Erasmus has been expelled from Twickenham as he completes a matchday ban for criticizing officials. Eddie Jones has joked that Erasmus will enter the stadium via a laundry basket, the tactic once used to avoid a ban from Jose Mourinho when he was Chelsea boss, but the tone of the England boss turned more serious as he did talked about the importance of showing respect to referees. Erasmus behavior is a recurring problem for World Rugby that will welcome support from prominent head coaches.

“Failures of epic proportions” were the words used by MPs to describe the handling of the crises in Worcester and Wasps by rugby bosses, both in administration. On a brutal Thursday, Premiership Rugby’s Bill Sweeney and Simon Massie-Taylor were grilled by the RFU’s selection committee for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, leaving Twickenham in need of fireworks for the height of autumn in hopes of ending the darkness relieve those gathered about the game on these shores.

Even if South Africa is overthrown, it will have been mid-autumn. Losing to Argentina in the series opener was a smash hit and while authority was restored against a disappointing Japan, it took a stunning late comeback to draw against New Zealand and spare Jones uncomfortable questions about the team’s direction. But those questions will arise as the Springboks storm Twickenham, where they have not won in three Tests since 2014.

One of the great duels of the modern game continues as Maro Itoje and Eben Etzebeth battle for dominance in the second row. Jones has been addressing Itoje throughout the fall, likening his “second coming” to a “comet” on the rise again and describing him as the best defensive player in the game. Meanwhile, South African enforcer Etzebeth sets the tone for his side, as Mako Vunipola noted: “He’s very physical, confrontational and tough. And he will come all day.”

Eleven years after his debut against Wales, Manu Tuilagi is finally reaching half a century of international caps. One of England’s most effective players would have amassed almost three times that figure had he not been struck by a horrific series of injuries that would have ripped through his Test career. England and Tuilagis Club Sale have worked together to devise a training and rehabilitation program that has managed to keep the powerful center of Samoan heritage available throughout the autumn – no easy feat – and the nation will pray he does stay fit for next year’s world cup cup.

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