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Premiership Rugby

World Cup Final – How England rate

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

FULLBACK: JOSH LEWSEYThe former army office knows how to cope under fire, but he will be tested to the full by a probing Wallaby attack and the howitzer boot of Stephen Larkham. Saturday won't be a day for another five tries; Lewsey's Final will be about keeping his head and taking out the intruders. One man who will be intent on getting round the England fullback is his opposite number. Last time Mat Rogers met the Englishman, the Wallaby's ribs were so badly broken he can no longer surf. More of those kind of hits are needed during the Final to take the wind out of Australia's sails.Player rating: 8/10

RIGHT-WING: JASON ROBINSON The Sale Shark star seems to be getting sharper by the game and he is sure to have the better of Lote Tuqiri with ball in hand. The situation could be a little different if his opposite number finds himself in possession, but no Englishman personifies true grit more than little 'Billy Whizz' and he will be up to the task of hauling down Australia's hulking backs. England fans will be hoping for a rerun of his fabulous try in the first Lions Test against Australia in 2001 – Robinson has the gas and just might deliver. Player rating: 8/10

OUTSIDE CENTRE: WILL GREENWOODIf England go with their suspected 'up-the-jumper' tactic, England's 'captain of attack' could find himself a little redundant. Defence will be the order of the day, but if there is even a whiff of a gap in the Green and Gold wall, expect Greenwood to sniff it out and send one of his eager lieutenants scurrying through it.Player rating: 8/10

INSIDE CENTRE: MIKE TINDALLMike for Mike is right. Catt loses out but it's horses for courses in modern rugby, and this thoroughbred is the perfect choice for this particular track. Mortlock may be on fire at the moment, but Tindall represent a monumental bucket of water – no one puts in more the robust Bath boy. For proof of that, look no further than his nose (or what's left of it). If the Wallabies to find away through you can bet it won't be down Tindall's alley.Player rating: 8/10

LEFT-WING: BEN COHENCohen was clearly heading for a fall when he came into this tournament wrapped in a media banner marked 'England's answer to Jonah Lomu'. Yet apart from wandering into midfield too often against Wales he hasn't done much wrong. He is consistently solid in defence and always a threat going forward. The Northampton Saints man comes up against Wendell Sailor in the Final and, being of equal size and style, are likely to cancel each other out. His opposite number has trouble when he finds the ball behind him, so expect Cohen to a be a the receiving end of a few crossfield kicks. Should he end up on the winning side, Cohen will make a bit of family history – uncle George won the football World Cup with England in 1966.Player rating: 7/10

FLY-HALF: JONNY WILKINSONCan we add to the superlatives that have been heaped don the fly-half in the past week? Most probably! The whole of England are going Wilkinson crazy, but the fly-half will need to keep calm and keep smiling in the run-up to the biggest game of his life. Stress and hyper-expectation are this Superman only known Kryptonite, and we all know what happen to Brazil's Ronaldo when he was subjected to the same pressure to succeed ahead of FIFA World Cup Final of 1998.Player rating: 9/10

SCRUM-HALF: MATT DAWSONDawson will spend the evening coaxing his forward to new heights to ensure he remains on the front foot. If he is any where else for any length of time, England will lose. Loves the big occasions and none come bigger than this, expect a seminal performance from the Northampton veteran.Player rating: 8/10

NO.8: LAWRENCE DALLAGLIOAnother sub-standard game against France from the once unconquerable, tireless Wasp. If he fails to raise his game on Saturday his tears may be more about loss than pride. England have desperately missed his ability to get across the gainline, but Dallaglio has yet to let his country down on the field of play and is sure to pull one last big game form the bag. The Wallaby flankers are built for pace rather than power so should be able to dominate around the fringes. Player rating: 6/10

NO.7 FLANK: NEIL BACKAt 34, Back is the senior statesman on the pitch and the butt of all the 'Dad's Army' jokes. I wouldn't laugh. Back looked as sharp as he has ever done last week, and – along with partner Richard Hill – reduced the French attack to ruins and rising star Frédéric Michalak to virtual tears. Having said that, Wallaby flankers Phil Waugh and George Smith are both peas from the Back pod, and the Englishman will have to be at his very, very best to beat them on the ground.Player rating: 8/10

NO.6 FLANK: RICHARD HILLJonny Wilkinson's superiority last week was largely due to the return of this man. When it comes to tying in the opposition, no one comes close to the Saracens man. His ability to stem the tempo of the opposite team's flow has often been the difference for England, and could be enough to kill off the Wallabies. His high tackle-count will need to be on display if England want to get ahead and stay ahead.Player rating: 9/10

NO.5 LOCK: BEN KAYKay had a hard time in the sodden line-out last week but he will bounce back – he is far too good a jumper not too. His scrummaging work will need to be first-class and he will have to put his out-sized frame around the park to fill the gaps and knock back raiding Wallabies.Player rating: 8/10

NO.4 LOCK: MARTIN JOHNSON (CAPTAIN)Johnson's captaincy against France was immense – it even drew effusive praise from rugby's captain of captains, New Zealand's Sean Fitzpatrick. England have told the world they can play in any style, and Saturday's foe could force them to change horses in midstream. Johnson will be the man to decide when to play it tight and 'boring' and when to go wide and 'adventurous'. Expect it to de the right decision This man deserves rugby's biggest trophy, and don't expect him to settle for anything less.Player rating: 9/10

TIGHTHEAD PROP: PHIL VICKERYEngland scrums stood up to a good French pack and the Wallabies are claiming they will offer even more of a challenge – coach Eddie Jones has even said his side has the edge in this department. That would have been music to Vickery's ears – the huge Gloucester man is a big match player and will relish the responsibility to deliver a solid platform for his team. Some of Australia's forwards are smaller than their backs, and Vickery will be looking to pick them out in the loose.Player rating: 8/10

HOOKER: STEVE THOMPSONThere were a few wayward throw-ins during the French game which need to be sorted. Sure, the weather played a part last week, but the forecast from Saturday doesn't look too much brighter. With so little between these teams, the slightest mistake could prove crucial and Thompson must get the basics right.Player rating: 7/10

LOOSEHEAD PROP: TREVOR WOODMANMore is needed form Woodman – he is highly dependable in all areas of play, but needs to raise his game to put the forward contest beyond debate. No onlookers really appreciated how hard this Gloucester prop works, but Saturday's effort will require 80 minutes of impeccable graft to ensure that all-important platform for Wilkinson et al. Player rating: 7/10


DORIAN WEST:The Leicester Tiger technician would love to get on the pitch, but this is a contest that requires the sheer physical presence of Thompson. Still, he would not disappoint if called upon.

JASON LEONARD:Is it 112 all out? Leonard is sure to retire if the warm glow of victory falls on England. If his side are winning handsomely with 10 minutes to go, he will undoubtedly finish on the pitch. But he has enough experience to come in to settle nerves earlier should England find themselves in trouble.

MARTIN CORRY:The versatile Leicester man is a proven player of Test quality who will be up for the big occasion. It remains to be seen, however, if he can slot into the second row early on in the match should injury dictate.

LEWIS MOODY:Moody will again cover for Richard Hill and continue to improve with every chance.

KYRAN BRACKEN:Dawson's game against France could have finally won him victory in the battle for the England No.9 shirt. But Bracken is right up there, and offers Woodward a comfortable option.

MIKE CATT:Catt loses out to Tindall, but could still play a part in this match. His kicking game can pin back rampant opposition and his rugby brain may be called upon if England find themselves with their backs against the wall.

IAIN BALSHAW:From wilderness to World Cup Final – but the Bath man will be sparing the chuckles for Saturday night. Woodward has long believed in his match-winning qualities and could be the wild card call if England find themselves needing to gamble all or nothing with the last throw of the dice. Balshaw has done it before.

By Andy Jackson


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