England would be worthy World Cup winners, the inspirational Siya Kolisi

The Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the Rugby World Cup with The Irish Times sports team

Siya Kolisi will lead South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty

Siya Kolisi will lead South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty

The Rugby World Cup final approaches, with England taking on South Africa in Yokohama on Saturday morning. If Eddie Jones’s side get past the Springboks, it would mean they have beaten all four of the southern hemisphere’s big guns - after wins over Argentina, Australia and New Zealand - to lift the trophy. And in his column this morning, Gerry Thornley suggests this would be an unparalleled achievement. He writes: “Hence, were England to complete the set by beating the recently crowned winners of the Rugby Championship, thereby completing a four-in-a-row clean sweep of Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, there’d be nothing bogus about their claims to being champions of the World. Arguably, they’d be the worthiest winners of all nine to date. Certainly a four-timer against the southern hemisphere quartet would not only be another first but most probably a last as well.”

One man trying to stop England from making history on Saturday is Siya Kolisi - the Springboks’ excellent backrow and the side’s first ever black captain. Gerry Thornley has profiled the 28-year-old, from Zvide township in Port Elizabeth, whose potential lifting of the Webb Ellis Cup would become arguably the tournament’s most iconic moment. “It’s impossible, from this juncture anyway, to ascertain the social significance of Siya Kolisi potentially captaining the Springboks to victory in next Saturday’s World Cup final. But, almost akin to Barack Obama winning the US elections, the possibility would have been utterly unthinkable at least until the mid-90s.” Jerome Garces will become the first Frenchman to referee a Rugby World Cup final, after he was awarded the job on Tuesday. Jaco Peyper will assist Wayne Barnes in Friday’s third place play-off, after he caused controversy following the quarter-final between Wales and France.

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