England’s Southern Hemisphere hat-trick on the cards

ENGLAND will set a new world record if they beat the struggling Springboks at Twickenham today.

Martin Johnson's men are chasing an 18th successive Twickenham Test win, representing a remarkable sequence stretching back to the 1999 World Cup.

Victory over South Africa would create a new world record for most consecutive international matches unbeaten at one venue, surpassing France's 17-game Parc des Princes run during the 1980s and Australia's current 17-match feat at Ballymore in Brisbane.

It underlines just how daunting a venue Twickenham has become for visiting teams, and emphasises the enormity of South Africa's task.

They are reeling from record losses to France and Scotland, and will suffer a fourth straight defeat at England's hands, should the form guide hold true.

With Australia and New Zealand already dispatched, and South Africa next up, coach Clive Woodward has described all three November Tests as being an irrelevance with regard to next year's World Cup.

Psychologically though, imprints will surely be left on the gold, black and green jerseys of their illustrious rivals.

England next tackle the Wallabies and All Blacks Down Under in June, while South Africa await as their pivotal World Cup group opponents in Perth on October 18.

Woodward and skipper Johnson are straight-batting all World Cup predictions and proclamations, but the 225,000 people who will have passed through Twickenham's turnstiles on three successive Saturdays might beg to differ.

''The last two games are now history,'' said Woodward, as he pondered a quickfire and unprecedented clean sweep of the Tri-Nations heavyweights.

Recent encounters have been brutally physical episodes, with the stitch-count proving higher than points scored.

''Both teams will have steam coming out of their ears it's always the same,'' he added.

''It is the responsibility of all players on the pitch to maintain their self-control. If not, then we have Paddy O'Brien in charge, one of the world's top referees.

''I am sure that it will be very tough, but tough in a way we enjoy. It is what we consider full-on, physical rugby.''

South Africa, injury-hit and inexperienced, field just one survivor Western Province wing Breyton Paulse from the side beaten 29-9 by England a year ago this weekend.

The form guide raises questions about their ability to handle England's forwards, and while centres Robbie Fleck and Butch James will enjoy clattering their opposite numbers, the Springboks have no obvious match-winner.

Woodward though, expects South Africa to come out firing, insisting: ''They know that if they can beat England at Twickenham, then they will go home as heroes, despite losing two other Tests."

ENGLAND: J Robinson (Sale); B Cohen (Northampton), W Greenwood (Harlequins), M Tindall (Bath), P Christophers (Bristol Shoguns); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), M Dawson (Northampton); J Leonard (Harlequins), S Thompson (Northampton), P Vickery (Gloucester), M Johnson (Leicester, capt), B Kay (Leicester), L Moody (Leicester), N Back (Leicester), R Hill (Saracens).

SOUTH AFRICA: W Greeff (Western Province); B Paulse (Western Province), R Fleck (Western Province), B James (Natal), F Lombard (Free State); A Pretorius (Lions), J Conradie (Western Province); W Roux (Blue Bulls), J Dalton (Falcons), D Carstens (Natal), J Labuschagne (Lions), A J Venter (Natal), C Krige (Western Province, capt), P Wannenburg (Blue Bulls), J van Niekerk (Lions).

Referee: Paddy O'Brien (New Zealand).

Touch judges: Scott Young (Australia) and Alain Rolland (Ireland).

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CourtsRugbyInternationalPlace: EnglandPlace: TwickenhamPlace: ParcPlace: PrincesPlace: BallymorePlace: BrisbanePlace: PerthPlace: Western ProvincePlace: provincePlace: New ZealandPlace: AustraliaPlace: IrelandPerson: Martin JohnsonPerson: Clive WoodwardPerson: WoodwardPerson: JohnsonPerson: Paddy O'BrienPerson: Breyton PaulsePerson: Robbie FleckPerson: Butch JamesPerson: J RobinsonPerson: SalePerson: B CohenPerson: W GreenwoodPerson: M TindallPerson: P ChristophersPerson: J WilkinsonPerson: M DawsonPerson: J LeonardPerson: S ThompsonPerson: P VickeryPerson: M JohnsonPerson: B KayPerson: L MoodyPerson: R HillPerson: W GreeffPerson: B PaulsePerson: R FleckPerson: B JamesPerson: F LombardPerson: A PretoriusPerson: J ConradiePerson: W RouxPerson: J DaltonPerson: D CarstensPerson: J LabuschagnePerson: A J VenterPerson: C KrigePerson: P WannenburgPerson: J van NiekerkPerson: Scott YoungPerson: Alain RollandEvent: Twickenham TestEvent: 1999 World CupEvent: World CupEvent: Tri-NationsOrganisation: EnglandOrganisation: SpringboksOrganisation: South AfricaOrganisation: FranceOrganisation: AustraliaOrganisation: ScotlandOrganisation: New ZealandOrganisation: WallabiesOrganisation: All Blacks Down UnderOrganisation: NorthamptonOrganisation: HarlequinsOrganisation: BathOrganisation: Bristol ShogunsOrganisation: NewcastleOrganisation: GloucesterOrganisation: LeicesterOrganisation: SaracensOrganisation: NatalOrganisation: Free StateOrganisation: LionsOrganisation: Blue BullsOrganisation: Falcons
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