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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Easy Company … The All Blacks’ answer to the Springboks’ Bomb Squad

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South Africa might boast of the might of their so-called ‘Bomb squad’ of replacements, but All Blacks flanker Dalton Papali’i on Tuesday let slip details of New Zealand’s own “Easy Company”.

The Springboks pack their much-vaunted bench full of quality players who would be pushing for a starting spot in many rival teams, often forward-heavy.

They proved crucial in South Africa’s 16-15 World Cup semi-final victory over England, when the replacement forwards put the English scrum under the cosh in the closing minutes.

Handre Pollard eventually kicked the match-winning penalty after Ellis Genge failed to cope with the pressure brought by the ‘Bomb squad’ to set up a World Cup final against New Zealand on Saturday.

“Talking about the bomb squad, they’ve proven themselves and they can come on and change the game like that,” said Papali’i, who replaced All Blacks skipper Sam Cane in the quarter- and semi-final victories over Ireland and Argentina respectively.

“Whoever’s on the bench, they need to really be screwed on up top and give them hell.”

Papali’i said he was part of a group of players who had started watching the HBO miniseries ‘Band of Brothers’ in the team room.

The series is based on the World War II activities of the Easy Company of the US Army’s 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles”.

“I made a little joke, you know they’ve got the ‘Bomb squad’, so we can have ‘Easy Company’!” Papali’i said.

“We want to go on and finish the job and be in the trenches.”

New Zealand scrum coach Jason Ryan acknowledged that the Springbok “set-piece is phenomenal. They are a big team. They have got a really clear identity of the way they want to play and they’ve got good bits of variation of how they use the ball”.

“This contest is going to be a title fight,” said Ryan.

Turning to South Africa’s replacements, Ryan added: “It would be good to take some gas out of that bomb, wouldn’t it?

“They have got their DNA as a forward pack. We’ve got trust in our plan this week and we believe we will be able to be there right until the end.”

Ryan insisted that previous results on the path to reaching the final at the Stade de France were largely irrelevant.

“I don’t think they let themselves down at all,” Ryan said in response to the Boks’ performance against England.

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“They are playing in a final. It doesn’t matter if you win your semis or quarter-final by one point or 30. You have just got to get to the final.

“They will have confidence, they know how to win World Cups. They love the big stage, as we do. They are the current world champions and hold the trophy.

“Last week is irrelevant for this game. This whole competition, what’s happened before, is irrelevant.”

AFP

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