England were ragged, and played like a team expecting to win – the arrogance backfired

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England blew their chance of winning the World Cup as they lost to South Africa in Japan.

As Owen Farrell lay on his ground and turned to see Cheslin Kolbe disappearing towards the try line in Yokohama he must have known it was all over.

The slippery South African wing had just slipped through the England captain’s fingers and so had the Rugby World Cup.

In Farrell’s eyeline was a giant pale blue hoarding with an image of the trophy and the words ‘RWC final’. England had just lost it after a performance they will regret for the rest of their lives.

England had breezed through this tournament as if they were to the manor born but when it mattered, when it was all on the line they fell horribly short.

They were ragged. They were vulnerable. And they were well beaten by the deserved winners, South Africa.

Did England get ahead of themselves after the humbling of the All Blacks? Well certainly some people did with one high street store hurriedly removing ‘England world champions 2019 T-shirts’ from their online offerings.

The players will insist until their dying day that they did not but they played like a team who just expected to win.

Turn up at the same ground at the same time and they would play the same wouldn’t they? Well, they didn’t. Not by a long chalk.

After the majesty of a week ago came the misery of a no-show on the biggest night of their careers. It was 80 minutes they will never get back.

Four months ago Eoin Morgan lifted the Cricket World Cup at Lord’s. The cricket showpiece was agonising ecstasy, a slow-burner against New Zealand which reached molten temperatures in its extraordinary conclusion when the Super Over went supernova. That was a day for Lord’s to cast aside its stuffy image and go all primal as Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer were doing their things.

Here though was a galling reminder that the coin does not always fall the right way for England at the pointy end of a World Cup.

The fumbles and scrum issues must have had the thousands of England supporters who took over the International Stadium in Yokohama wondering about the thousands they had spent to be at this final.

They had travelled in such hope but in the end it was the flattest of parties.

On the bullet train to Yokohama the bemused locals looked on in bewilderment as ‘Swing Low’ filled the usually silent carriage.

Many of the white-shirted throng doing the singing had Japanese hachimaki head scarves on – cultural crossover in action at the first Asian Rugby World Cup.

If Japan was supposed to represent neutral ground in the battle of Africa versus Europe the anthem volumes soon put that idea to one side.

For Prince Harry, who flew in for the final, it must have been warming to hear his grandmother’s song reverberating so powerfully around the stadium.

There are some sporting occasions when God Save The Queen can sound drab and plain. This was not one of those occasions.

The noise and passion before kick-off was phenomenal. What followed from England was anything but.

The Springbok support, massively outnumbered but rightly proud of their team, were the ones cheering at the end as the gong sounded for full time.

For South Africa it was a victory of huge significance with Siya Kolisi, their first black Test captain and the hero of the townships, raising the Webb Ellis Cup in a triumph which will reverberate through all of the Rainbow Nation. That should not be lost in the backwash of England’s defeat.

But for Farrell it will take days, weeks, months even to work out what happened to his world beaters yesterday. He may never do so.

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