In his latest TRU column, sponsored by PureVPN, Josh Beaumont looks back at England’s epic win over New Zealand, previews the World Cup final and discusses Sale Sharks’ start to the new season.
Myself and the Sale lads managed to watch the semi-final at breakfast before the London Irish game and England were really dominant all over the park. To comfortably beat New Zealand in a World Cup semi-final with two tries disallowed and only that one mishap at the line-out where the All Blacks scored, that just shows how dominant they were.
England were so physical. Some of the tackles they put in knocked New Zealand back defensively and the set-piece was strong. Obviously, the New Zealand game plan was to use their four jumpers compared to England’s two predominant jumpers at the line-out, but I think what the guys did out there with Steve Borthwick was excellent and once they were able to get around that, New Zealand’s plan was nullified and England had the advantage.
For me, it wasn’t just the fact that England’s defensive shape was very good last weekend. It was their speed to get up to the Kiwis and produce those big hits which shifted the momentum. There were two or three in the game which were crucial – Sam Underhill’s on Jordie Barrett standing out – and that probably knocked the confidence of the New Zealand players. It was a clinical display by England.
England have also shown how far they have come on in terms of their attacking. The speed of ball they can get in their general attacking play and the momentum they get really challenges teams defensively.
If they can get that in the World Cup final, South Africa are really going to struggle but there will be a different challenge physically for England this weekend.
In the last two games, England have really dominated that gainline and created quick-ball. I think defensively, they will still be fine, but attacking wise, it depends whether the Springboks can slow them down. England may not get the momentum with those carries as they have been doing so that could be their challenge.
South Africa’s set-piece is also huge for them. Back in the autumn, they really troubled England with the driving maul. They are a big pack of forwards and they will aim to use that as a weapon.
They haven’t really shown much more as they have just stuck to their game plan. They have always looked to exit well and put teams under pressure to get good line-speed and a good chase on the kicking game. If they do that again and get good territory to use that good set-piece in England’s half, that is where they will be able to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
In terms of a prediction, I will have to say England. It will be a close World Cup final, but I think England will win!
They [Tom Curry, Mark Wilson, Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager] will obviously all have a bit of time off after this, but to have four players in a World Cup final all involved is massive for us as a club.
As a group and a squad, it will bolster us when they return and they will be coming in high on confidence. They will just increase the buzz around the place and the commercial side of Sale are probably also enjoying the fact we have four players in the World Cup Final!!
I think a lot of frustration came out of that performance in the opening week against Gloucester. We didn’t play well and we were not good enough at the set-piece. That kind of cost us the game, I think. To get that right and put in a performance we knew we were capable of in tricky conditions at the Madejski Stadium was big for us last Saturday.
I was rolling back the years with my try when I used to play in the backs! I don’t often get to do that now so it was nice! It was at a point in the game where we knew that if we got one more score ahead, we could put the game to bed. It is always nice to get over, but the team win is the most important thing.
We have a big game this weekend against Bristol Bears. They obviously lost to Wasps last time out, but beat Bath comfortably in the first game of the season. They are strong at home and they like to play an expansive game of rugby so it is going to be a challenge for us to back it up in our second away game on the bounce. We want to push on as a squad and these are the games you want to be involved in.
Last year when we played at Ashton Gate, it was a crazy game! Both sides missed late penalties! They kicked a lot of ball to us and we also had both Curry brothers playing for us and they were a big threat at the breakdown. It will be interesting to see what their tactics are this year. We know these are the games we need to win to compete for the top four throughout the season.
Josh Beaumont was speaking to Talking Rugby Union's Chris Heal.