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'Let's return to reality - Ireland must exercise caution'

Irish expectation soars as Andy Farrell's team sweeps all in its path, but cool heads are needed if they are to heed mistakes of the past

The Courtney Lawes verdict on bizarre try in sluggish England win

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England skipper Courtney Lawes retains faith that his team’s bumbling attack will be at its best when it most matters at the Rugby World Cup.

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Their lack of creativity in the Steve Borthwick era has been regularly criticised and the hope was that Sunday night’s fixture versus Japan in Nice would see them build on last weekend’s try-less success against Argentina with 14 players following Tom Curry’s third-minute red card.

However, despite managing to keep their full complement of players on the pitch for only the third time in seven matches, their approach to breaking down Japan was so laboured that they were booed by their own England supporters at around the 50th-minute mark for tamely kicking away possession.

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All Blacks v Springboks had 74 minutes of dead ball | The Breakdown
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All Blacks v Springboks had 74 minutes of dead ball | The Breakdown

England, who had a 24th-minute try from Lewis Ludlam, were unimpressively 13-9 ahead at that juncture and Japan were to close to within a point before a madcap moment on 56 minutes saw Joe Marler provide Lawes with a bizarre headed assist after the ball had been fumbled his way by the mishandling Will Stuart.

It was a flukey score but it was enough to finally piece Japanese momentum and after Freddie Steward added a third on 66 minutes, England finished out the Pool D game by securing the four-try bonus point and the 34-12 win with a clock in the red score from Joe Marchant.

Three tries in 25 minutes was very much out of character for this England side as they had arrived into the match needing on average 70 minutes to score a single try, but even that late flourish wasn’t enough to appease the impression that they remain extremely limited in attack.

Lawes begged to differ, stating: “We showed glimpses how good our attack can be and we will continue to work on it. We are getting better every day and we’re getting better at it, we’re taking steps forward. Come later on in the competition we are hoping we are firing in all cylinders.”

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The conditions in Nice didn’t help their accuracy, he added. “It was tough. Even when you got a good grasp of it [the ball] going into contact you can feel it spinning out of your hands, sometimes before you have even made contact.

“It’s actually really quite challenging at the minute because it is so greasy, it’s so hot, really humid, so you are already sweating. It makes pretty much like a wet weather game out there.”

Reflecting on his try which was the game’s defining score, he explained: “It was quite a lucky try but I will take them where they come. It was a good bit of luck for us and in these conditions, you will take what you are given really.

“I saw it ricocheted off his [Marler’s] head so I went and scored the try just in case, but I was pretty sure it had gone backwards (off Stuart) and then come off his head. I told the ref on the way out. I had a good idea it was going to get given.”

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