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We preview England v Australia – the RWC Final

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

The talking has to stop – even in Australia – as the moment every rugby fan across the world has been waiting for is about to arrive, The Rugby World Cup Final.

On Saturday night at around 10pm, Sydney time, it will either be Martin Johnson or George Gregan holding the Webb Ellis Cup above their head and four years of preparation, hard work and sacrifice will be over.

The feeling in the England camp is one of relaxation and contentment, but no sense of arrogance or under-estimation of the huge task ahead. They have – so far – done exactly what they told us they would do and now the game's ultimate prize is within their grasp. Don't necessarily expect a great game of expansive rugby – but England can play that way if they wish – in the Olympic Stadium as Clive Woodward's side will do anything possible to achieve victory. The lap of honour at the end will taste just as sweet following a 3-0 win or one of 43-40.

All week the Australian media have been trying to tempt Woodward into changing his game plan – as the side did in 1991 – but the England coach is a man of steely resolve and nothing will shake his from his goal.

'Grumpy Old Men' was the way one newspaper here in Sydney described them and former Wallaby Toutai Kefu has once again been questioning the England side, but the comments just bounce off, and if anything act as one more tiny piece of motivation. One of the key reasons why this England team can ignore outside influences is experience. The side has an incredible 638 caps between them and this could be crucial in the last quarter of a game when panic could set in.

In his attempt to lift the trophy, Woodward has tinkered slightly with his team, bringing in Bath centre Mike Tindall, instead of his club mate Mike Catt, who is relegated to the bench.

Catt showed what a devastating player he can be in the quarter-final win over Wales so don't be surprised if he comes on to make a big difference on Saturday. But Tindall offers England "the bosh" they just might need in midfield, against what is an almost watertight Australian defence.

England defence coach Phil Larder explained: "Tindall is a completely different player to 'Catty', but the difference is mainly in their attacking side of the game. Both fit into our defensive pattern very well. Tindall is a little more experienced out there, he's a little bit quicker, and he's very powerful. I am quite happy whoever is defending out there."

Australia have kept their all-Rugby League back three of Wendell Sailor, Mat Rogers and Lote Tuqiri and resisted the temptation to drop either George Smith or Phil Waugh to the bench, from the back row. Both players are opensides and it makes the Wallaby back row a little unbalanced.

This could be a crucial area for England as they will try to exploit this battle, particularly at the back of the line-out, where Richard Hill seems to get better with every match.

Larder added: "I don't think it's any coincidence that you've got the two best defensive sides out there. We always respect the Australian defence, I'm sure they respect ours.

"The last time we played them we scored three tries in that game, so we respect them, but we know they're not infallible."

Most rugby matches are won and lost in the battle between the two tight fives and in this area Australia received a big blow with the neck injury to prop Ben Darwin, in the semi-final win over New Zealand.

Against England, Darwin's place is taken by the inexperienced Al Baxter. Matt Dunning comes on to the bench for the Final, where he will join David Giffin as Wallabies coach Eddie Jones stays loyal to the Nathan Sharpe and Justin Harrison second row combination.

Jones has complete confidence in his pack. He said: "We have developed a pack prepared to take on anyone. It is a young pack, they have no fear, nothing to be frightened about."


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