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'It's very easy when you lose a man to hit the panic button'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Michael Steele/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Freddie Steward has shared his delight in Marseille about how England reacted so brilliantly to having to play with 14 men for their 77 minutes in their Rugby World Cup opener versus Argentina.


There were only three minutes gone on the clock at Stade Velodrome when Tom Curry was yellow-carded for his head-on-head contact with Juan Cruz Mallia.

That sanction was soon upgraded to red by the foul player review officer but England reacted brilliantly to their third yellow-upgraded-to-red card in four matches, going on to beat the Pumas 27-10.

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Those previous reds – for Owen Farrell in the 64th minute versus Wales in London and Billy Vunipola in the 53rd minute in Dublin – had given Borthwick’s team a taste of how to cope with being a red-carded man down.

It was also just six months ago when Steward himself was red-carded on the stroke of half-time in Dublin (a punishment rescinded to yellow at a subsequent midweek disciplinary hearing).


Marseille became the jackpot payout for all those man-down experiences. “Definitely, when you have been somewhere before it’s always easier to channel that. Throughout this whole pre-season there has still been genuine belief,” enthused Steward.

“It’s been said a lot; these are the games that matter. Coming into a World Cup, regardless of our form, we started on zero points. We had to be tough. Obviously, we lost Tom early on and I suppose it’s the ultimate test isn’t it: When you go a man down, can you still find something? We did.”


George Ford was the jewel in the English crown, stroking over all 27 points that his try-less team scored. “He is one of those players that make it look so easy. He makes everyone else look great and that is the telling side of a player like George.

“He is a dream to play with. It’s so nice when you stand behind him and he is slotting drop goals for fun, it makes everyone else’s life a lot easier. He is such a tactician.

“It’s very easy when you lose a man to hit the panic button and everyone’s like ‘argh’ and heads are in the air, but George was ice cool about it and when you have one person doing it, it radiates around the team.

“To have someone like him at 10, you just trust him. You trust that he is going to make the right decision.”



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