HERE we go then. After last weekend served up a thoroughly enjoyable appetiser, it is time for the main course. The biggest game in English rugby since Paris in 2007; the biggest moment in English sport since Jofra Archer’s super over earlier this summer. Another World Cup final, this time on the rugby field. It is time for Jonny Wilkinson’s successor to write his name into the record books.

In some ways, England’s task on Saturday morning is easier than the one they completed seven days ago. South Africa are not the All Blacks. They do not have the same aura or carefully-cultivated sense of invincibility. They do not have a Beauden Barrett, all silky handling skills and counter-attacking punch, or an Ardie Savea, effortlessly offloading in the tackle. Their game plan is far more rigid, their running lines far easier to predict. In terms of a running threat from the backs, England would almost certainly have faced a more difficult challenge if they had been taking on Wales.

And yet, in one hugely-significant aspect, this will still be the ultimate test of Eddie Jones’ side. The Springboks want to fight power with power. Having watched England’s players tackle the All Blacks into submission last weekend, they want to skittle them over like pins. So what if Tom Curry and Sam Underhill stopped everything that moved? The South Africans will back themselves to be that little bit stronger, that little bit more durable as the bones begin to shake.

It can be decried as a one-dimensional game plan, but who cares if the dimension in question is so destructive? The All Blacks just about withstood the South African onslaught in their opening group game, but since then, the Springboks have obliterated everything in their wake. Even the Welsh, with their much-vaunted defensive resilience, were unable to hold out.

Will England’s players fare any better? Let’s hope so. Neither Australia nor New Zealand were able to outmuscle them, and while the return of flying winger Cheslin Kolbe adds another dimension to South Africa’s play with ball in hand, Jones’ side know exactly what will be asked of them on Saturday.

Curry and Underhill will have to match their heroics against the All Blacks, Billy Vunipola will have to make yards of his own at what is sure to be a ferocious battle at the breakdown, Manu Tuilagi will have to punch holes in a South African defence that was pretty much watertight against Wales.

As was the case nine days ago, Maro Itoje will have to be a titan at the line-out, securing English ball and disrupting the South African throw. The scrum is bound to be something the Springboks will target, so the English front row will have to stand firm. Maku Vunipola, with all his experience and strength, will be crucial.

The first priority has to be matching the Springboks’ physicality. Then, and only then, England can begin to play. The more Saturday’s game is played in the loose, the more it will suit England. That does not mean running for the sake of it – George Ford’s astute kicking game will still be crucial in terms of dictating territory and turning the South African defence – but if Ford and Owen Farrell can get the ball into the hands of Jonny May and Anthony Watson in even the tiniest pocket of space, South Africa will be worried.

England’s superiority lies in the versatility of their attack. As their knockout games have proved, they can play in a variety of ways. Their rolling maul is a formidable weapon, and their forwards are comfortable picking and carrying, inching over the gain line. When the time is right, though, Ford and Farrell know when to switch play to the backs. Whether from pre-rehearsed set-piece moves or the hubbub of open play, England’s finishers are clinical.

After three-and-a-half years of tinkering, it feels as though Jones has finally got the balance just right. A remarkable thing happened when England’s head coach selected his team for the final this morning – he selected an unchanged starting XV. It is the first time that has happened in the whole of his reign, emphasising both the extent to which he has experimented ahead of the World Cup finals and the depth of his satisfaction at his side’s semi-final display.

Given South Africa’s brute strength, there must have been a temptation to move Farrell to fly-half and pair Henry Slade with Tuilagi in midfield. Defensively, that would have been the safest call.

The fact Jones has stuck with Ford at ten and Farrell in the centre confirms two things. First, that Ford’s performance last weekend made him impossible to drop. You don’t pull the All Blacks around as if you have the ball tied to a string, only to be dumped back on the replacements’ bench. Second though, by sticking with Ford as his conductor-in-chief, Jones has also sent out a powerful message about English intent. This is not a team that wants to sit back soaking up pressure; this is a team that wants to attack.

Jones’ final message as he wrapped up his pre-match press conference earlier today was that he wanted his players to seize the occasion. He didn’t want them to feel constrained or restricted. Be bold, take risks. South Africa will stick rigidly to their tactical template. England need to make the most of their ability to adapt.

When Jones replaced Stuart Lancaster in the wake of 2015’s World Cup debacle, he spoke of embarking on a journey that would reach its climax in Japan. There have been twists and turns on the way, with an explosive start to Jones’ reign being followed by a trickier spell when some of the old guard were jettisoned and many of the players that will start on Saturday were bedded in.

Gradually, though, momentum has built. The World Cup started with low-key displays against Tonga and the United States, and even when Argentina were dispatched, it was hard to tell where England stood because their opponents were playing with 14 men. Australia was a big step forward, New Zealand a leap to an entirely new plane.

Now, there is just one more game to go. One last challenge between Jones’ team and sporting immortality. One golden opportunity to stand on top of the world.