Courtney Lawes insists England need to be “ready for anything” in Saturday’s World Cup final against South Africa.
Lawes and company will go into battle as red-hot favourites to lift a second world title after England’s Jonny Wilkinson-inspired success against Australia 16 years ago.
England elevated their World Cup campaign to new heights with a stunning semi-final demolition of New Zealand.
It was the All Blacks’ first World Cup defeat for 12 years and destroyed all hope of them achieving an unprecedented trophy hat-trick.
South Africa, though, displayed their renowned physical approach in ultimately winning a prolonged arm-wrestle against Wales two days ago.
And Lawes, whose former Northampton team-mates include 2007 South African World Cup winner Victor Matfield, knows the Springboks present a considerable challenge.
“There are plenty of physical teams,” England lock Lawes said. “Are they one of the best in terms of physicality? Yes, certainly.
“It’s a big challenge for us, and it’s something we are going to have to front up to at the weekend.
“They are tough guys, they are brought up tough and they play tough. So do we. So we are looking forward to it.
“I probably expect them to kick a lot – they do kick a lot generally.
“Being a World Cup final, we need to be ready for anything. There will be a couple of surprises thrown in there, I’m sure, but generally, they will stick to what they know.”
Lawes has fond memories of Matfield’s time at Franklin’s Gardens, with Saints having recruited a number of South African players down the years.
“He was a brilliant guy to have in the team, a fantastic leader,” Lawes added. “I picked up that side of things from him.
“Obviously, having so much experience and so much knowledge is something to marvel (at), really.”
With the ovations dying down after England’s masterclass against the All Blacks, England are now ready for one final push in their last game of the tournament.
“It took maybe a day to realise what kind of opportunity we’ve given ourselves, but now we are back to training and focusing on the next game,” Lawes said.
“We always planned to beat New Zealand, we always planned to get to the final, so it was no surprise to us.
“The good thing about this team is we are used to not getting ahead of ourselves.
“So we know we’ve got the opportunity to make history, but it is not just going to happen.
“We know that, and we know that there is a way we are going to have to train this week and things we have to do to put ourselves in the best position to come away with a win at the weekend and make history.”
England defence coach John Mitchell – the former New Zealand coach and international – has seen South African rugby from all angles.
“I’ve watched the Springboks as a kid and played against them and coached them,” Mitchell said.
“I used to look at them and think they are the one side in the world that can create pressure like no other team.
“But what is great about that is that there is now another team that can create that pressure – and that is us.
“They are very forward dominated. And they love their scrum, love their line-out drive and love the physical nature of the game.
“There are many ways you can play this game and they play it in a particular way and always seem to have an intimidator at number and that’s just their way. And it works for them.”