Forward thinking is key to England victory

New Zealand's Brodie Retallick (left) is challenged by England's Billy Vunipola.
New Zealand's Brodie Retallick (left) is challenged by England's Billy Vunipola.
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England’s players are preaching a mixture of brain and brawn as the way to subdue South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.

Ben Morgan and Joe Marler – two of the forwards who will face the “big green machine” as Mike Catt calls them – have led from the front in the verbal sparring this week.

Prop Marler assessed the challenge awaiting England in the second QBE International by stating “their DNA is run hard and if that doesn’t work then run harder”.

And Morgan believes Stuart Lancaster’s side need to be streetwise if they are to triumph in a fixture which pits together two teams smarting from a defeat in their opening autumn fixtures.

Gloucester No 8 Morgan said: “We know South Africa are a big, physical team who like to use route one, so we have to use our smarts to move them around and create mismatches.

“We want to get South Africa running around the field chasing us. If we can do that and take our opportunities, we’ll come out on top.

“If we carry the ball into narrow channels then that’s exactly what they’ll want. They’ll line us up from 10 metres away and come charging at us. But if we can shift the point of attack, it can make the world of difference.

“Not only does it give you the one-on-one carries that everyone wants, but it means the defence is always moving around. If you hit them tight then they don’t really move.

“But you can’t get away from the fact you have to carry hard too. You won’t always be able to put those passes in, you have to front up and go through the line.

“Taking big hits takes it out of you, but we’re advanced enough as a team to move around and cope with that sort of stuff.

“There are quite a few Premiership matches that have ended in a slogging match, so we’ve gone all though that type of game. We know what we’re up against this weekend.”

Morgan’s first exposure to the Springboks was the 2012 summer tour when England were swept aside in the first two Tests before recovering to earn a 14-14 draw in Port Elizabeth. That is the only positive result Lancaster’s England have enjoyed against South Africa, who remain the only nation the former Leeds player and head coach has yet to defeat.

Despite that, Morgan – who has now amassed 24 caps – can see the progress made since the first trip abroad of Lancaster’s reign.

“For many of us that was our first tour and it was a real learning curve. I was very green back then and I’ve come a long way since,” said Morgan.

“I’m a lot more experienced and have learnt a lot of lessons through winning and losing. There were also the experience of going through that difficult patch with Gloucester last year.

“I’m definitely more rounded and I know what I have to do now. I’m better defensively, which has changed with experience.”

Morgan is likely to continue in his role as No 8 reinforcement to Billy Vunipola when Lancaster names his starting XV this morning.

Vunipola faded in the defeat by New Zealand, but, while there are concerns over his fitness at international level, the 22-year-old looks set to profit from Lancaster’s desire to give the same 23 another chance.

Semesa Rokoduguni has been ruled out with a thigh problem, so Marland Yarde has been drafted into the squad as wing cover and is competing with Anthony Watson to start in the No 14 
jersey.

An injury doubt hangs over flanker Tom Wood, who England say is suffering from general soreness after the All Blacks game, so James Haskell is on standby as his replacement.

South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer, meanwhile, subscribes to Steven Hansen’s view that there is no psychological advantage to be gained from storming Twickenham so close to next year’s World Cup.

Lancaster’s men have highlighted the importance of turning their home ground into a fortress this autumn with three of their group games as well as the key knockout games held at the stadium. New Zealand departed with a 24-21 victory last weekend but Hansen, their head coach, described the idea the win would have lasting ramifications for the World Cup as a “load of baloney”.

Meyer added: “I truly believe what happens now will not have a big influence on the World Cup.

“In a sense it’s almost better if you lose as your guys will then know they will have to step it up. I’m not saying we should lose of course, but there are so many nuances. You can’t say because you have won at Twickenham you now have the edge next time because you then get complacent.

“If you look at 2007 when South Africa won the World Cup, they lost a lot of games that year and that didn’t make a huge difference.”