sport news Rugby World Cup final - Where the key battles can be won or loss in England vs ...

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We are are now just hours away from the climax of a superb 2019 Rugby World Cup hosted by Japan.

England take on South Africa in the final on Saturday in what is bound to be a pulsating encounter.

And ahead of that showpiece, Sportsmail has looked at the key battles that could determine where the match is won and lost.

Maro Itoje vs Eben Etzebeth

Both of these players are world-class operators in the second row who are helping redefine this position.

Itoje has grown game-by-game in the Rugby World Cup and was breathtaking in England's sublime 19-7 semi-final win over New Zealand. The 25-year-old has won 10 turnovers so far, more than any other player in the competition, three of which came against the All Blacks. On top of that he also won seven line-outs and stole one of New Zealand's - a threat that South Africa will be well aware of.

So far, he has made 55 tackles in the tournament, with a 92 per cent success rate, while making 54 metres on 26 carries to boot.

Like Itoje, Etzebeth is his country's leading line-out jumper. The mammoth lock has the height (6ft 8in to 6ft 5in) and weight (18st 8lbs to 18st 1lb) advantages over Itoje and will look to exert those small differences to his gain.

Etzebeth has also been effective in all phases of play, though not as dynamic as Itoje - he has a 94 per cent success rate on 34 tackles while his 22 carries have yielded just 28m.

Maro Itoje has won 10 turnovers so far, more than any other player in the competition

Etzebeth has a 94 per cent success rate on 34 tackles

Maro Itoje (left) and Eben Etzebeth are redefining the lock position - such is their sheer quality 

Billy Vunipola vs Duane Vermeulen

'They have many different threats and one of the biggest is their forward pack, none more so probably than their second-rowers and Duane Vermeulen. 

'I've played against them a few times and Vermeulen's got one up on me lately. He's such a big player for them and last summer he was monumental in getting them two victories. So, I'm going to try my best to win that little battle.'

Those are the words England's wrecking ball number eight Billy Vunipola. The 26-year-old knows he is set for a gigantic battle on Saturday.

As South Africa's 2007 Rugby World Cup winning captain John Smit told Sportsmail, Vermeulen is 'a rock in our pack who is so good at maul-setting and driving, and stopping mauls'. 

The 33-year-old has averaged four metres per carry from 25 carries at this World Cup but in Vunipola England have a dominant ball carrier of their own. He's averaged a remarkable 11 carries per game (55 from five matches) for a total of 129m.

Expect the pair to cause chaos at the back of attacking scrums.

Billy Vunipola (centre) will be looking to cause havoc with ball in hand for England

Billy Vunipola (centre) will be looking to cause havoc with ball in hand for England

However, against Duane Vermeulen he knows he faces a daunting number eight battle

However, against Duane Vermeulen he knows he faces a daunting number eight battle

Ben Youngs vs Faf de Klerk

Two very contrasting scrum-halves here that are symbolic of their teams' gameplans.

In Youngs, England have the more expansive No 9 compared to South Africa's De Klerk. Youngs creates more from open play - having made a total of 138 passes to just 17 kicks in England's two knockout matches against Australia and New Zealand. In contrast, De Klerk's territory-based game has seen produce just 77 passes to 36 kicks in their wins over Japan and Wales.

Youngs is the greater attacking threat overall having made 19 carries, 279 passes and just 36 kicks during the tournament, while his opposite number has made 14 carries, 200 passes and 58 kicks.

However, England must be wary of De Klerk. England head coach Eddie Jones has called the 28-year-old the 'heartbeat' of South Africa's team and the diminutive figure isn't afraid to make a tackle while also trying to rile up the opposition in any niggly

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