The 2011 tackle clip that came up in this week's England prep
England’s preparations this week for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup opener versus Argentina in Marseille included watching a clip of assistant Richard Wigglesworth getting taken out in the air in 2011 by Felipe Contepomi, the current Pumas assistant.
It was 12 years ago when England – then coached by Martin Johnson – previously opened a World Cup campaign against the Argentinians, a match they narrowly won 13-9 in Dunedin en route to topping Pool B at those finals.
A similar outcome would do very nicely for the English team now coached by Steve Borthwick, as the rookie Test-level head coach has endured a difficult introduction. England have lost five of their last six matches and been defeated in six of the nine games in total with Eddie Jones’ successor at the helm in 2023.
Despite an incredible level of pessimism surrounding them heading to Marseille, Wigglesworth is hoping that what happened three World Cups ago can be a good omen for another positive start. “It was a tight game, I did play in that one,” he said during England’s eve-of-match media briefing at Stade Velodrome.
“Actually showed a clip this week of me getting taken out in the air by their coach Felipe Contepomi. Tight game, Lenny [Ben Youngs] came on and ended up scoring a try that got us over the line. Very very tight and cagey, as these World Cup games tend to be early on.”
England’s build-up to France 2023 has been generally written off as their worst-ever lead into a World Cup, but Wigglesworth doesn’t agree. He instead believes that momentum is with them after what was described as a refreshing week at their Le Touquet-Paris-Plage base camp in the north before they flew south to Marseille on Thursday afternoon.
“The impressive thing about this group is how well they have done in the last couple of weeks, especially now that we have got to France,” enthused Wigglesworth, who is just months into his new coaching role with England after spending six months last season as Leicester’s interim boss after Borthwick left to take over from Jones in December.
“They look like a group that are relishing the chance to get out there and not be too nervous about doing it. Their attitude of how they got stuck into it and how they look at the game is refreshing.
“I don’t know if I am too interested in expectation outside the squad. That has been labelled at us a few times and you have got to understand that this squad is incredibly tight and determined. Whether that is from the outside or within, that has always been there.
“Does the expectation mean Argentina go in as favourites, or what other people say, it makes no difference to us. We are incredibly determined to give the absolute best of us… smile on your face, go out and enjoy it, put your game on the field.
“It is our jobs as coaches to give them some sort of framework that they feel like they can do that to the best of their ability. They have been incredibly impressive, they look like they are excited and ready to go.”
Five England starters – including Test rookie No9 Alex Mitchell – are featuring in their first Rugby World Cup match. What is Wigglesworth’s message to them and to the more experienced campaigners in the line-up? “When you played as long as I did, you always tend to look back on the regrets.
“If there is anything you can impart on them it is that you don’t regret playing, you don’t regret giving it your best and you don’t regret enjoying it. You regret the other stuff when you have held back so we don’t want to hold back.”
England arrived into sweltering conditions in Marseille but unlike Scotland, who must face South Africa at 5:45pm local time on Sunday, Borthwick’s team won’t have it so bad with their 9pm kick-off time the previous evening.
“We have had many a joke about the English weather since we arrived,” quipped Wigglesworth. “It rained when we turned up in Touquet and they blamed the English weather. It is going to be hot and humid but the boys at the start and end of seasons, that is the weather they play in.
“It’s the start of our season, so it will be nothing too different. Yeah, the middle of the days (are hot). Probably pleased it’s a 9pm kick-off.”
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