EDDIE Jones said from the start of his appointment as England head coach in 2015 to judge him on how his side perform at the 2019 World Cup.
It is fair to say he’s been a success, with his team just 80 minutes away from their second Webb Ellis Cup.
The Red Rose have been excellent this tournament, slowly going through the gears as the calibre of opposition has increased, culminating with a masterful display against New Zealand in the semi-finals.
England played at a level rarely seen in world rugby last weekend, completely nullifying the All Blacks and the game seemed closer on the scoreboard by virtue of two disallowed English tries.
An unchanged side sees Jones stick with the double-pivot of George Ford and Owen Farrell that has proved so effective during his tenure, while some of the younger members of the forward pack have come of age in Japan, with Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Kyle Sinckler all excelling.
However, the pack will face one of the best units on the planet in the final.
Regular readers of this column will recall that South Africa were tipped pre-tournament at 4/1.
The Springboks suffered an early loss to New Zealand, but since then have ground out physical wins against all comers, before dispatching Wales in a tight semi-final.
Rassie Erasmus’ side have built their platform off strong forward plays, a maul that has been incredibly dominant, with their hookers combining for four tries and Handre Pollard’s unerring accuracy off the boot.
The Springboks have doubled-down on the final being a physical, grinding contest by having a six-two split on the bench and their tight-five has some of the best depth in the tournament, with Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff likely to walk into nearly any other team’s starting XV.
Of the eight Rugby World Cup finals, only three have been decided by more than 10 points and this has the makings of another close game.
In the 2007 final, neither of these teams scored a try, with all 21 points coming from the kicking tee. England enter as favourites and considering their display against the All Blacks, you would have to consider that is justified.
If they perform to that level again, South Africa will be hard-pressed to get a hand on them, but finals have a way of levelling the playing field and England will have to grind out the result here if they are to be victorious, which looks the likeliest result.
England to win by 1-12 points is 29/20 with Sporting Index, which looks a fair price based on previous matches between the two.
They frequently start with a bang and in eight World Cup finals, the team that scores the first points have won the game on five occasions.
Jonny May has regularly scored on big occasions for the Red Rose in recent years and the 17/2 about him crossing the whitewash first in Yokohama looks good value.
Only twice has a final had 40 points or more and both involved New Zealand.
On the three occasions either South Africa or England have lifted the cup, the highest winning score has been 20 points and that was after extra-time.
All signs point to this being a low-scoring affair and Sporting Index have priced total points at around 37.
Going off history and the relatively tight affairs both teams experienced in the semi-finals, that looks fairly high and a sell (betting lower) is advised.
Both sides have high-class, very physical defences that don’t give up points easily and neither team will give an inch.
While discipline will play a large part, it may not be the try-fest neutrals are hoping for.
In Pollard, South Africa have a kicker who is blessed with both range and uncanny accuracy, and it was no surprise he was given Man of the Match in the semi-final after securing 14 of the Springboks’ 19 points.
England’s kicking stable is more varied, with Farrell usually handling duties, but with Elliot Daly on hand for a long-range attempt.
With finals usually close affairs, it is vital to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Both sides will kick for goal eagerly if the opportunity presents itself and will often be more successful than not.
Sporting Index prices match kicking metres at 250 and in a final which should be decided by small margins, points from the boot will be vital.
As the penalty count slowly increases, so will the metres, and buying (betting higher) this market looks the best bet.
England to win by 1-12 points 29/20
Jonny May first tryscorer 17/2
Buy match kicking metres 260
Sell total points 36