TOKYO, 30 Oct - Lawrence Dallaglio says England are unlikely to repeat their sensational semi-final performance against New Zealand in Saturday's Rugby World Cup final, as they bid for a clean sweep of rugby's southern hemisphere giants.
"I’m not sure we should even expect them to because it doesn't happen like that in rugby," said the former England captain, who described the 19-7 victory against the All Blacks as "one of the great Rugby World Cup performances, full stop. The most complete England performance for quite some time, if ever".
"I say that with a huge amount of pride," added Dallaglio, a World Cup winner in 2003 and a beaten finalist in 2007. "It was breathless from start to finish and it is not often that a team has a gameplan and is able, almost from the first minute, to execute it almost perfectly.
"There are probably a few things they would look back on and think they could have done better – maybe scored a few more points – but you can’t be too unhappy with what they served up.
"What is even more impressive is, normally, when a team beats the All Blacks you see quite a lot of hysteria on the final whistle, because it's a major achievement. Of course they were pleased - there were smiles and big hugs - but they were fairly grounded and under control and recognised it was a semi-final and not a final. That’s a good sign."
Dallaglio has been impressed by England's improvement during the tournament and says that if they do complete the "Tri Nations treble" they will deserve the trophy, but he warned that South Africa are "a tough nut to crack".
"England had a relatively trouble-free pool stage. The big question was, 'Have they been tested?' They have answered that emphatically. First against Australia, when they had a gameplan they executed perfectly, then a similar job against New Zealand.
"If they go on and win it - and it is going to be a very tough game - by beating the three southern hemisphere teams in consecutive weekends, they deserve to be crowned world champions.
"In Eddie Jones, they have an immensely experienced coach. They will look at South Africa in great detail and come up with a way of playing but we can’t expect them to do what they did to New Zealand. South Africa are a very difficult side to beat. They have only conceded four tries in the whole tournament - two against the All Blacks in the first game."
As for whether winning now would be a greater achievement than England's 2003 triumph, he said: "This team are on their own journey of discovery. To win the World Cup you need to win seven games, but for them to beat all three Tri Nations back-to-back would be an amazing achievement.
"All the great teams over the years tend to be coach-led and very much player-driven. When Eddie Jones first took over, the balance was much more coach-led. What has happened over the last couple of years is that there is a real sense that the players have really driven it.
"Of course, Eddie Jones comes up with gameplans, but his players need to implement them. There seems to be a trust between players and the coach. If he changes the team, the players are able to adapt and take responsibility.
"They are fitter than when he took over and they have some world-class players who have delivered on the big stage. It's exciting and there's a lot more to come from this England side. It's going to be quite special."
Dallaglio, 47, did have one sobering note for the England players should they win on Saturday. "For some of them, their lives won’t change much because they will be back playing rugby a week later. I know from my own experience, you celebrate with the country but you normally have a week off and then back to the day job."