Inspired by the right boot of George Ford, England overcame adversity in their first game of the Rugby World Cup to make a statement 27-10 win with 14-men against Argentina.
Receiving a red card within three minutes was probably not the start to the World Cup campaign that English fans envisaged. Tom Curry was unfortunately the culprit when his yellow card was upgraded to a straight sending off for a clash of heads with Argentina’s Juan Cruz Mallia – and just like that Plan A was thrown out of the window.
What followed that early set back, however, was a true testament of the team’s resilience and togetherness. In a first half that had shadows of England’s victorious 2003 World Cup campaign, George Ford decided to bring back the drop kick back into fashion.
After the confidence of landing his first at 3-3, Ford took range from the half way line for his second attempt with the same result. Argentina tried getting in on the action themselves but couldn’t execute the art as effectively as England’s No.10 who converted a third drop kick before half time to take his nation into a 12-3 lead at the break.
It was easy to forget that Steve Borthwick’s side came into the tournament with an overarching sense of dread after an underwhelming year of international results. A breathtaking first 40 minutes was followed by an extremely well controlled second period, consolidating what was by a distance England’s best performance under head coach Borthwick.
Anyone who turned up late to the match on Saturday evening would be forgiven for thinking the Pumas were the team restricted by having a man down. England controlled every aspect for the majority of the 80 minutes, only succumbing to the South American’s late pressure for a mere consolation try in the final minute.
Courtney Lawes captained fantastically, Manu Tuilagi encapsulated the whole performance with his endless bundle of energy in the midfield and George Ford orchestrated a classic victory and the perfect start for England against one of the main challengers in their World Cup pool.
It was an opening weekend of the 2023 Rugby World Cup that saw few shocks but entertained with incredible performances.
All eyes were on the Stade de France for France’s opening match of the World Cup against the All Blacks. Often these occasions can fall short of the hype that surrounds them but in a match between two sides that could likely meet again for the final in six weeks time it was the hosts France who were able to land the early blow in this years’ fascinating competition.
The two heavyweight sides looked well matched for most of the contest but with the support of the national stadium behind them, France dug deep to create a healthy cushion in the final quarter.
Despite being disheartened at full time after their first ever pool stage defeat, the All Blacks will take encouragement from the fact opening weekend defeats aren’t fatal. In a group also containing Italy, Uruguay and Namibia they will still be firm favorites to make the last eight.
Elsewhere in the tournament Wales got off to a fine start with a 32-26 win against Fiji in the final match of a gripping weekend. Warren Gatland’s team looked comfortable with a 12-point lead but a late Fiji comeback set up a dramatic ending in which Wales were able to hang on to secure the win in an eight-try thriller.
Reigning champions South Africa also started with a win by wearing down Scotland in a low scoring but ruthless display. Following their headline win over New Zealand in the build-up, the Springboks are highly tipped by many to go all the way again in 2023 and showcased those credentials on Sunday with an 18-3 victory at Scotland’s expense.
After a solid year so far, Scotland won’t be too discouraged by the defeat against the world champions but will have to put in a near perfect display throughout the rest of their pool fixtures after reigning Six Nations Grand Slam champions Ireland thrashed Romania by 74 points on Sunday as well.
England’s next opponents in Pool D will be Japan. Steve Borthwick’s side will take a lot of confidence and momentum from their win against Argentina that now makes them favorites to top their group. If they can manage the challenges of Japan, Chile and Samoa to finish top, they will likely play one of Australia or Wales in the quarter finals.
Welsh hopes of making to the knockout stages were helped by Australia’s victory over Georgia on the opening weekend. Portugal are the next opponents for Wales in Pool C, whilst Eddie Jones’ Australia turn their attention to a dangerous match up with a Fiji side that beat England in the warm ups and showed a lot of spirit in their opening match.
On the other side of the draw, tournament favourites France, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa will be looking to avoid any unexpected headlines against lower ranked sides in their pools; while Scotland get a week off to reflect on their loss to South Africa and what was an electric start to the 2023 World Cup.
England’s remaining World Cup pool fixtures:
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