Post their dramatic loss to 25-29 to a deserved Welsh side in Tokyo last weekend, it is anticipated that the Wallabies will now meet the might of England as the Australians appear destined to finish runners-up of Pool D, thus putting them on a collision course with the winner of Pool C.
Yet a clear path to an English conquest of Pool C will be challenged by Argentina and France, both of whom would relish in defeating this venerable English side as each has ‘history’ with the men in white.
Argentina will be the first hurdle for the English when they square off at Tokyo Stadium this Saturday, and it is destined to be attritional rugby at its finest.
“Saturday is going to be like a war, it’s like a final for us,” legendary Argentinian hooker Agustin Creevey said.
“It’s going to be really hard with the forwards. I think the battle with the forwards will be the game. We need to win the scrum, win the line-out, win the maul, win the breakdown.”
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England has not lost to Argentina since 2009, which bodes well for Eddie Jones’ men, while they haven’t played against each other since 2017, where Los Pumas were defeated at Twickenham 21-8.
Argentina is not a team to be trifled with.
But from an English point of view of progressing further into the World Cup, Argentine consistency isn’t a factor that should be weighed upon too heavily.
In fact it’s their opponent’s inconsistency that should be of concern, as Los Pumas are capable of taking down ‘Big Game’ and are due to do so.
There is no greater stage than a World Cup to deliver, and given that we have already seen Japan topple Ireland and fellow South Americans Uruguay upset Fiji, perhaps there is yet another to come this weekend?
If the English do navigate past Argentina, which I suspect they will, they must then back up and face the French the following Saturday at Yokohama.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 4, 2019
France have had a typically French tournament thus far, riding their luck and narrowly defeating the Argentines 23-21 in the opening round, and, despite a lacklustre start, did enough to defeat the USA 33-9.
Do not be deceived, though, as the French have the framework of a very good side that is building toward a big performance.
They have the set-piece, physicality, speed and intelligence, but also appear the patience and mentality to ‘stay-in-the-fight’ and dismantle an opponent.
Something that has previously been lacking in French rugby – dare I say team cultural issues – appear to be quelled at this tournament.
Another factor to consider is how well England do play away from fortress Twickenham?
Since 2017, the English have played 13 test matches away from home and lost six of those matches to tier one opposition such as South Africa, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and France.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 3, 2019
To their credit, they have also defeated Ireland, Wales and South Africa away, but consistency on the road might be an issue for this English side.
Former English hooker and World Cup-winner Steve Thompson doubts whether England will even win this tournament.
“The game is going well at the moment. America [on Thursday]? I’m expecting England to put another 40 points on, but it’s just when the pressure comes on,” he said.
“If England want to win the World Cup they have got five knockout games. They have got Argentina, France, quarter-final, semi-final, final and I don’t think they have got the mentality in the squad at the moment to be able to back that up five weeks in a row.”
England have not strung together four successive wins over tier one nations since 2017, those being against France, Wales, Italy and Scotland, which gives factual credibility to Thompson’s assertions.
However, I differ from Thompson as I think England could still win the World Cup if they were to lose to either Argentina or France in the pool stage.
Despite questionable away form, England has the ability get to the quarter-finals and win three games to win the World Cup against any opposition they face. They don’t need to win five knock out games to win the Cup as Thompson claims.
I suspect England will drop a game, and that game will be against France as they will have an easier build-up to the clash by facing an enthusiastic Tonga, who will be willing but outclassed.
England, on the other hand, will no doubt be coming off a brutal encounter with Argentina, which might prove to be influential toward the latter part of the match when France and England do finally meet.
What this means for Australia is that they will either face a French side coming off a difficult pool game with England, or an English side that will have to back up after two gruelling encounters with Argentina and France.
Either scenario is favourable to the Wallabies, who have matches against Uruguay and Georgia before the finals stage.
Both of those sides will need to be respected by the Wallabies, but it should also provide the opportunity for Australia to hone their attack and get their combinations right.
Most importantly, though, it gives them a chance to address their mentality of how they start the game, as they can ill afford to start passively – as they did against Wales – in the quarter-final, regardless of who they face.
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