'Unbelievable journey' for Mitchell as Saints star starts in World Cup semi-final

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Phil Dowson couldn’t be happier to be witnessing the ‘unbelievable journey’ of Alex Mitchell at the Rugby World Cup.

Mitchell didn’t even make it into the initial World Cup squad, but the door sprung open following an injury to Jack van Poortvliet in a warm-up match against Wales.

The Saints star has taken the chance with both hands, propelling himself into pole position for the No.9 shirt.

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Mitchell was the man called upon to start in the quarter-final against Fiji last Sunday, having impressed during the pool stages.

Alex Mitchell starts again on Saturday (photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)Alex Mitchell starts again on Saturday (photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Alex Mitchell starts again on Saturday (photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

And now Mitchell has a World Cup semi-final to look forward to as he again starts this Saturday following the 30-24 success last weekend.

"It's fantastic,” said Saints boss Dowson.

"He goes from being the fourth choice to starting in a quarter-final.

"I messaged him and it's an unbelievable journey for him so I'm really pleased with how he's handled it, how's he seized it and how well he's playing.”

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Courtney Lawes continues to show his class on the world stage, producing an immense performance in the win against Fiji.

The Saints legend shone for the full 80 minutes, eventually delivering the turnover that sealed the victory.

Lewis Ludlam was not part of the matchday 23 despite enjoying a strong tournament so far.

England are now getting set to face a South Africa side who claimed a thrilling 29-28 win against hosts France last Sunday evening.

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The Springboks started with a former Saints player at scrum-half as Cobus Reinach was given the nod ahead of Faf de Klerk.

And Reinach will now engage in a thrilling battle with former Saints team-mate Mitchell as both are handed starts on Saturday.

South Africa are the current world champions, and England know just how big the challenge they will face in Paris on Saturday will be.

But No.8 Ben Earl believes boss Steve Borthwick can come up with a plan that can propel the team into the October 28 World Cup final.

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"Steve is superhuman in terms of preparation, in terms of plans," Earl said. "It never surprises me that everything is completely in hand.

"We just get told the plan and we bring it to life, and the amount of quality we have in our group is crazy.

"Let's go and win the semi-final.

"Let's get to the World Cup final."

England: Steward; May, Marchant, Tuilagi, Daly; Farrell (c), Mitchell; Marler, George, Cole, Itoje, Martin, Lawes, Curry, Earl.

Replacements: Dan, Genge, Sinckler, Chessum, Vunipola, Care, Ford, Lawrence.

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South Africa: Willemse; Arendse, Kriel, De Allende, Kolbe; Libbok, Reinach; Kitshoff, Mbonambi, Malherbe, Etzebeth, Mostert, Kolisi (c), Du Toit, Vermeulen.

Replacements: Fourie, Nche, Koch, Snyman, Smith, De Klerk, Pollard, Le Roux.