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South Africa happy to take over England's World Cup training base

England's World Cup misery was prolonged on Tuesday after South Africa spoke in glowing terms of the state of the art training facility the failed hosts have been forced to vacate.

The Springboks have moved into the luxurious surroundings of Pennyhill Park in preparation for Saturday's quarter-final against Wales and are benefiting from the artificial pitch and high performance centre built by the Rugby Football Union.

The interior of the facility has been kept a closely guarded secret by England, but details have emerged of a gym equipped to the highest specifications including Red Rose-embossed dumbbells weighing up to 85kgs, a hi-tech sledge pushing device and a row of Smith machines.

A 40m x 40m artificial indoor playing surface is flanked by a line of enormous punch bags, while dominating one wall of the changing room is a giant TV screen.

Inspirational quotes, among them one by Arnold Schwarzenegger, decorate the walls of the building, although these are believed to have been covered up in anticipation of South Africa's arrival.

It was hoped the facility, opened in May last year, would aid England's quest to be crowned champions of their own World Cup, but instead they have failed to qualify for the knockout phase for the first time.

South Africa now have full use of the training base reported to have cost the RFU £3million, while England lick their wounds over their tournament demise that was sealed after a mere 16 days.

"There is irony in us being here and using their training base," veteran flanker Schalk Burger said.

"Unfortunately for them they are not here to use the facility for the full duration of the competition, but that's life and we are happy to take the facility and make full use of it.

"Some of the guys who do gym have been doing weights in the building and they say it's an unbelievable experience.

"It's an incredible place. The media centre is pretty much bigger than my local club back home. It's unbelievable.

"The field is lovely and the weather is playing its part so far in England. The rooms in the hotel are also really nice.

"All the waiters and hotel staff seem to be South African. I have met about four - I think the English staff have gone on leave!"

Prop Tendai Mtawarira, nicknamed 'The Beast', has completed a weights session in the high performance centre and will perform set piece drills on an area dubbed the 'Scrum Garden' by England forwards coach Graham Rowntree.

"I've done weights in there. It's state of the art, the best rugby facility I've trained in," Mtawarira said.

"When we have our scrumming session on Tuesday afternoon, we will experience the Graham Rowntree scrum garden."

Since being stunned by Japan in the biggest upset in rugby history, South Africa have steadily built momentum that means they will start as favourites against Wales.

"This World Cup has been like my career - ups and downs," Burger said.

"We started with the most famous loss in World Cup history against Japan and after that the next two weeks were probably the toughest as a Springbok.

"After the Japan game there was a lot of pressure on us. We had to stick our hands up and be counted.

"We have played knockout rugby for the last few games and we just need to keep on doing what we are doing and I think we will be successful.

"Coming back to win against Samoa and Scotland meant that we had turned the corner, topped our group and we now have a quarter-final against Wales.

"What's important about this group is we have pressed the reset button after we had that loss and now we have to concentrate on winning a quarter-final.

"We have played some decent rugby over the last three weeks which has pretty much been knockout rugby so let's see if we can get through this quarter-final."


From Belfast Telegraph