Gerry Thornley on the final showdown in Japan; huge weekend ahead for Irish hockey

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

England captain Owen Farrell practices his drop kicks with England coach Jonny Wilkinson. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

England captain Owen Farrell practices his drop kicks with England coach Jonny Wilkinson. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

And so it all comes down to this. Tomorrow morning England will meet South Africa for the Webb Ellis Cup in Yokohama. In his preview this morning Gerry Thornley writes that “history has taught us that when it is all distilled into the last game, the team who have been the steadier ship over a World Cup cycle tend to beat those who have had to seek a shorter-term fix.” Going by that logic, Eddie Jones will be leading England to the trophy but, as we all know, it doesn’t always work out like that. If England are to march all the way to glory a key man in the team will be their wrecking ball, Maro Itoje. The physicality South Africa will bring to the table on Saturday will be their main asset but, with Itoje in full flight, England can not only match it but better it. This morning Wales meet New Zealand in the third place playoff for what will be a game of farewells with Warren Gatland and Steve Hansen both departing afterwards while a number of players also make their final bows. Don’t forget you can follow all of the action from tomorrow’s final on our liveblog which will begin at 8.30am.

Moving on and it’s a huge weekend for the Irish women’s hockey team as they look to qualify for the Olympics for the first ever time when they take on Canada in a two-legged playoff in Donnybrook on Saturday and Sunday. The team took the world by storm by reaching the World Cup final last year but this week has again shown the hard-working volunteerism which makes it all possible, as Hannah Matthews told Johnny Watterson. Seán Dancer’s side will be looking to avenge the heartbreaking defeat for the Irish men’s team against Canada last week and this morning we profile each of the 18 players in the squad.

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