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Thursday Oct 19, 2023

Joe Marchant claims centre partner is best in the world to stop big units

The low hum of Swing Low Sweet Chariot appears to be steadily growing in bass among the hundred-odd thousand rugby fans moving around the Paris streets this week. Prior to the tournament, there would not have been more than a handful of truly optimistic fans that would have given England a chance in the depths of hell of making the final – but here we are one game away.

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The journey has been incredibly English – tough, resilient, and insistent upon giving their own fans a heart attack at every corner. Their time in France is due to come to an end in just under ten days whether they reach the final or not, but for these players and their legacies in an England shirt, the grand finale would be a deserving meeting place for many that have served their country so proudly over the years.

Despite the wealth of experience in the international setup, there has been the emergence of new talents coming into their own prime in this World Cup. Speaking in front of the world media in a press conference today, Joe Marchant and Ben Earl were keen to stress the level of confidence the squad is building internally. Ben Earl fielded the majority of the questions from the press, as he articulately described the feelings inside camp.

“Our whole story has been that we’ve not felt far off. We’ve got to realise that we are a new group. A lot of the teams that have come into this World Cup are coming off four, eight-year cycles. What are we, four months in as a team, as a group?

“We speak a lot about being the fastest-learning team. I think on the whole, we’ve had some spanners thrown at us through the warm-up games and certainly through the early stages of the competition. We’ve dealt with them pretty well. So, we are pleased in that regard. What is most exciting now is that we feel like we are building, we are building nicely.” 

The conversation quickly turned to the elephant in the room, the fearsome prospect of a bulldozing South African side on Saturday, one that have just knocked the hosts France out of their own tournament.

“We are our own team. We are a team that although we feel like we’ve kind of been through the mill a little bit over the last couple of months, we are the kind of team that doesn’t hold too much baggage. We are a new team. We feel like we are only really at the beginning of our journey, we are not carrying too much of a burden. 

“We’ve got a huge amount of respect for them. They are some of the players I’ve been watching highlights from when I was 12 (of), certainly in the pack. 

“But the only way we can respect them is by bringing our best and that’s what we’ve been speaking about all week and how we’ve been preparing ourselves.

“I am just excited about testing myself against some of the best in the world. People that have played against them say they are fantastic to play against.”

This is set to be a huge occasion for the players, with both Marchant and Earl not a part of the squad that dismantled the All Blacks four years ago. Marchant explained how they were going to deal with the Springbok threat in the centres.

“Obviously they are both big and athletic and they’re going to be really physical. For us, it’s about trying to stop them in their tracks.”

It’s Marchant’s partnership with Manu Tuliagi that he feels can help put a stop to the brutal South African attack.

“Our connection, it’s been getting better and better. It’s great to play with the man. There’s no one better to stop big units. It’s been a privilege to play alongside him and hopefully this weekend we get the best out of each other.”

England and South Africa take to the Stade de France on Saturday at 21:00 local time.

Line-ups

England: Steward; May, Marchant, Tuilagi, Daly; Farrell (capt), Mitchell; Marler, George, Cole, Itoje, Martin, Lawes, Curry, Earl.

Replacements: Dan, Genge, Sinckler, Chessum, Vunipola, Care, Ford, Lawrence.

South Africa: Willemse; Arendse, Kriel, De Allende, Kolbe; Libbok, Reinach; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (capt), Du Toit, Vermeulen.

Replacements: Fourie, Nche, Koch, Snyman, Smith, De Klerk, Pollard, Le Roux.

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