England complete their autumn schedule when South Africa visit Twickenham in Saturday’s 2019 World Cup final replay.
Here the PA news agency examines five talking points ahead of the clashes.
Jones demanded respect for officials
For the second year in a row, Springboks rugby director Rassie Erasmus was banned from Twickenham as he completed a match ban for criticizing an official. Eddie Jones joked that Erasmus would enter the stadium via the laundry basket, a tactic once used to avoid suspension by Jose Mourinho when he was Chelsea boss, but the England head coach’s tone became more serious when discussing the importance of showing respect for referees. Erasmus’ behavior was a recurring problem for World Rugby, which would have the backing of a top head coach.
Rugby on the pier
“Failure on an epic scale” were the words used by MPs to describe the handling of the crisis by rugby chiefs in Worcester and the Wasps, who are both in administration. A brutal Thursday saw RFU Bill Sweeney and Premiership Rugby’s Simon Massie-Taylor roasted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s selection committee, leaving Twickenham in need of fireworks to climax into autumn in hopes of lifting the gloom that has gathered over this game on the beach .
Red rose rescue action
Even if South Africa is ousted, it will be quite a fall. Losing to Argentina in the series opener was a heavy blow and while authority was restored against a disappointing Japan, it took a stunning late comeback to draw with New Zealand and spare Jones from uncomfortable questions about the team’s direction. But those questions will arise if the Springboks storm Twickenham, where they have not won in three Tests since 2014.
Itoje v Etzebeth
One of the great duels in the modern game will continue as Maro Itoje and Eben Etzebeth compete for second place. Jones has talked up Itoje all autumn, comparing his “second coming” to an up-and-coming “comet” and describing him as the best defender in the game. Meanwhile, South African Etzebeth set the tone for his team up front, as noted by Mako Vunipola: “He was very physical, confrontational and tough. And he will keep coming all day.”
Tuilagi reached 50
Eleven years after making his debut against Wales, Manu Tuilagi has finally earned a half-century. One of England’s most effective players would have amassed almost triple that amount had he not been hit by the vicious streak of injuries that has left such a huge hole in his Test career. The English club and Tuilagi Sale have teamed up on designing a training and rehabilitation program that has managed to keep the strong Samoan heritage center available for the entire fall – no mean feat – and the nation will be praying he stays fit for next year’s World Cup.