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England claim Wales was 'perfect' preparation for Pumas RWC opener

By Liam Heagney
Owen Farrell argues with Dan Biggar (Photo by PA)

Steve Borthwick has claimed that the back-to-back Summer Nations Series matches versus Wales were the perfect preparation for England to take on Argentina in their opening match at the Rugby World Cup.

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The 2019 tournament finalists are set to face the Pumas in their pool starter in Marseille on September 9 and while he admitted that his team must become sharper in the coming weeks, he suggested taking on the Welsh was ideal.

England were beaten 9-20 in Cardiff last weekend after failing to build on a 9-6 interval advantage, but they made good their 6-0 interval lead at Twickenham on Saturday in a dramatic second half where they found themselves at one stage reduced to 12 players and trailing 9-17 before hitting back with a late flourish to win 19-17.

Video Spacer

Steve Borthwick reacts to Owen Farrell’s red card and win against Wales

Video Spacer

Steve Borthwick reacts to Owen Farrell’s red card and win against Wales

Having had Henry Arundell yellow carded for cynically blocking Liam Williams from trying to take a quick restart after he had marked the ball in the Welsh 22, and they then copped three more yellow cards in a crazy seven-minute spell in the second half.

England first had vice-captain Ellis Genge binned after his team’s blinked when both front rows were on a general warning at the scrum. Freddie Steward then needlessly took Josh Adams out in the air, giving up a card and a lead-conceding penalty try, before skipper Owen Farrell crunched his shoulder into the head of the ball-carrying Taine Basham on 64 minutes.

Points Flow Chart

England win +2
Time in lead
56
Mins in lead
16
69%
% Of Game In Lead
20%
74%
Possession Last 10 min
26%
3
Points Last 10 min
0

The hosts then conceded a breakaway converted try to fall eight points down before hitting back with 12 men, Maro Itoje credited for the converted maul try. Before play restarted, Farrell’s yellow card was upgraded to red by the TMO bunker, forcing him to give up his seat in the bin and instead trudge disconsolately down the tunnel to the England dressing room.

His team, though, rallied again, pressure with Genge and Steward back on the pitch helping to earn the 75th-minute penalty that George Ford kicked to clinch the 19-17 win and leave Borthwick enthused that England had emerged victories from a nip-and-tuck encounter.

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“If you look at the game, I said beforehand games against Wales are often arm wrestles,” he suggested. “Warren (Gatland) coaches a team that is just hard to beat, so they are often arm wrestles and that is very similar to the way Argentina play.

“Now I know they were well beaten by New Zealand, but the rest of their games are always very, very tight so that is the perfect dress rehearsal for the game in four weeks’ time.”

Not that England were perfect, just their reaction to the bizarre situation they found themselves in with Wales having a three-player advantage. “I have said my piece around we want to have 15 players on the pitch and we certainly do want that.

“What I will say here is the players, talk about their character, their resilience, we are going through a tough training phase right now and the players trained very hard. When I look at the figures it was one of our highest training weeks.

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“To go out this weekend, to go down to 12 men and to still come through in the end, it shows the character of these people, and I’m also confident as we reduce the training load the sharpness is going to come in the team and it will improve over the next few weeks.

“The attack area takes the longest to develop. That is where we are focusing our attention and as the training load in the next week or two starts to decrease, that will encourage players to sharpen up and that will help our attack. We know where we are aiming for and right now we are on track for four weeks’ time.

“We never had a Test week with that high a training load (as we had on Tuesday), but we are building for four weeks’ time and I’m very confident that our preparation is going to get the players ready for where we need to be.”

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5 Comments
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Philip 304 days ago

England management are delusional if they think the way the team is being coached to play will get them past the last 16 at the RWC. England supporters want to see a team that plays with flair and a bit of courage not east Midlands pragmatism. If this was a premiership side they would struggle to get paying customers through the door. Too late to change the coaching set up so perhaps the best thing to happen would be an early exit from the group stage and a total re-think of playing style, and it needs a different head coach

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