England’s rugby team silenced their many critics, with a huge win over Argentina to open their Rugby World Cup campaign. Courtney Lawes and George Ford led from the front in particular.
The result was not clear cut, and England head coach Steve Borthwick must have feared the worst when Tom Curry was sent off in the third minute for contact to the head of an Argentine player. Somehow though, England made light work of a disappointing Pumas outfit whose feared set-piece was completely dominated.
George Ford managed the game to perfection, with a brilliant solo 27-point haul. Mind you, it was not pretty with the game low on quality yet England won’t care about that. Everyone associated with England rugby wanted to see a performance of ‘substance’ and Courtney Lawes’ men did that and more.
Charlie Inglefield from Last Word On Sports dissects an incredible turnaround led by Lawes and Ford.
Courtney Lawes and George Ford lead England to famous victory
For England to turn their fortunes around they desperately need their experienced heads to lead from the front. Too many of England’s established stars have failed to fire in the last 12 months. On a scorching but slippery evening in Marseille, England silenced their many critics with a performance that was brave and clinical in the extreme. It was Lawes and Ford supported superbly by Cole and Earl who sparked such an extraordinary reversal of fortunes. England’s previously faulty set-piece totally nullified their much-vaunted Argentinian counterparts.
England got off to the worst possible start as befitting their recent form. Tom Curry’s sending off in third minute, rightly so, was proceeded by a string of penalties that could have spelled the end for Borthwick’s men. But it was the experience of the excellent Lawes who reigned supreme at the breakdown that kept the Pumas at bay. He was ably supported by Ben Earl and a resurgent Maro Itoje as England then proceeded to dominate the set-piece and the skies.
George Ford’s 27 point haul signalled his return to form as he led England around the park perfectly in tough conditions. Every time England got into Argentinian territory Ford ensured that they came away with points. Seeing two experienced players in Lawes and Ford lead from the front under such pressure would have greatly pleased the under-siege England management.
Itoje and Lawes reign supreme
Itoje and Lawes were superb in the engine room on Saturday night. Against Argentina, Itoje was back to something like his old self. Itoje has had a tough couple of years from being one of the peak second rows in the world too many questioning whether he was worth his place in the starting XV. He was a constant menace in the lineout, tireless in defence and a general nuisance whenever the Pumas had the ball. Itoje’s return to form is one of a number of big pluses to come out of this victory.
Lawes was England’s saviour in the first 20 minutes of Saturday’s contest. Twice he turned over Argentina at the breakdown and made countless tackles to somehow keep England level with Argentina after Curry’s sending-off. Lawes’ leadership was outstanding throughout making sure that England did not surrender after another player to the bin.
Having leaders like Lawes and Ford step up in the absence of Farrell bodes well for England’s remaining matches in the pool.
England’s set-piece was always going to be key in this match. Argentina on paper had a formidable pack and had England there for the taking. Even more so when Curry was sent off. It could not have been more different come the 80th minute.
The Argentinian pack had been beaten into submission under an avalanche of penalties. Huge credit goes to the entire England pack who thoroughly outplayed their counterparts. Dan Cole rolled back the years by being rock steady at scrum time. Jamie George, and Ellis Genge were not far behind him.
England’s demolition of the Argentinian pack might not have sent shockwaves to the rest of competition but it would have served notice that England are not to be taken lightly. Surely, England will take so much confidence into the remaining pool matches knowing that they have taken down one of the best packs going around. It must be said how disappointing Michael Cheika’s Pumas were on Saturday night. They were completely decimated up front, rudderless in attack and had no idea how to take advantage of a struggling England team, who were a man down.
England still have much to work on against Japan at RWC2023
For all of the positivity that rightly surrounds England after their gutsy win, there is still much to work on. The slippery conditions coupled with Curry’s sending off meant that England was never going to play an attacking game plan. England bombed a 5-on-2 opportunity just before halftime that summed up their attacking limitations. The reality is that if they do get to the latter stages of the World Cup they will ‘need to do more with the ball in hand’ than just rely on Ford or Farrell’s boot.
Japan next Sunday will be a perfect opportunity to see whether England can score some tries through their backs. The Brave Blossoms will look to play a fast, open game and England should look to do so also. It is doubtful that Borthwick will make too many changes to the line-up. Understandably. Courtney Lawes and George Ford were superb against Argentina so it would be difficult to break up that leadership combination.
In terms of squad selection, Borthwick might look to get Marcus Smith into the team – most likely at full-back – to spark England’s currently predictable backline. Freddie Steward was superb under the high ball but, so little comes from England’s current back three, change might be necessary. Smith, Max Malins and Henry Arundell are x-factor players who might come into the equation against Japan. England’s kicking bombardment led by George Ford has to be pinpoint accurate, as Japan has many exciting ball-runners. How refreshing it would be to see to see either Arundell or Smith have a bit of licence to run with the ball.
Let us not detract too much from a superb England win. They should rightfully celebrate this moment, because it is a significant one. And quite rightly, was a quantum shift for the squad. England has finally arrived and supporters should enjoy what comes next.
England v Japan – Sunday, September 17, at Stade de Nice
“Main photo credit Wikimedia Creative Commons”