Injured England wing Josh Lewsey is backing the champions' "old battle-horses" to once more upset the odds and beat South Africa in Saturday's World Cup final.
Lewsey, a member of the England side that beat Australia in the final four years ago, will not be involved after sustaining a hamstring injury during last weekend's 14-9 semi-final win over France when he opened the scoring with a second minute try.
This year's final is a repeat of last month's Pool match where South Africa, against a Red Rose side minus now fit-again talisman and goalkicker Jonny Wilkinson, won 36-0 -- England's record World Cup defeat.
The Springboks were convincing 37-13 winners over Argentina in Sunday's second semi-final and Lewsey said: "South Africa are favorites, deservedly so. They saw off a very good Argentina side and saw them off quite comfortably."
However, the 30-year-old former Army officer compared England's recent run of wins to the kind of well-judged finish produced by two of Europe's leading flat race jockeys.
"It's quite nice doing the old Frankie Dettori or Kieren Fallon coming up on the rails and hopefully we can do it again this weekend," he said.
Lewsey said the experienced members of the squad had really come to the fore after the South Africa defeat.
"We drew a big line in the ground and you've got to give all the players an enormous tap on the back.
"Being written off, it puts you in a luxurious position that nobody expects anything so that is quite a comforting place.
"At that stage, with the amount of criticism coming from people in this room [the press] and sometimes justifiably so, for everyone to pull together rather than back stab each other is testament to character of the squad.
"Finally, you've got some gnarly old battle-horses. Guys have won trophies in this squad. On the big stage they are proven performers and, ultimately, on Saturday you saw that in the last 10 minutes. We were the ones that took the opportunities when it mattered," Lewsey said.
One of those chances saw Lewsey score a try after Damien Traille, in only his second Test start at fullback, was undone by the bounce of England scrumhalf Andy Gomarsall's kick ahead.
Lewsey, after scoring, then patted Traille on the head in what appeared to be an unsporting "thank you" gesture.
Asked if he had any regrets over the incident Lewsey, replied: "No. It was just one of those things. Damien Traille is a world-class player and we've all got a thick enough skin to take the rough with the smooth in our international careers."
Looking ahead, he added: "We've had two great wins [England defeated Australia 12-10 in the quarter-final] but South Africa are looking pretty smokin' themselves and they are a fantastic outfit. However, write England off at your peril."
"Luckily, we all know that form can go out of the window when you are in a knockout competition," Lewsey said.
"The performances over the last three years certainly haven't predicted the outcome of the latter stages of this World Cup.
"To come through all that and to miss out on the final is personally devastating. But there are more important factors this week than feeling sorry for players. All I care about is that England win.
"Phil Vickery [the England captain] said before the Australia game, `whatever happens, when we go home don't ever regret this day. Make sure when you come back in here today you can't have given anything more.' That was just so true.
"Everyone just wanted to make people proud back at home and I think hopefully we've done that. But we're not quite finished yet," Lewsey said.
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