Rugby World Cup: We Had Faith We Would Find Our Form, Say England

REUTERS/Peter Cziborra
Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2023 – Pool D – England v Argentina – Orange Velodrome, Marseille, France – September 9, 2023 England’s Tom Curry with family members after the match

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) – England’s players will get back to work at their base on the northern French coast on Monday with a spring in their step but the party line after the Argentina win was that it didn’t give them a confidence boost, because they didn’t need it.

The squad came into the tournament promising they would deliver a steep improvement from the dire performances in their warm-ups and, against the odds after Tom Curry’s third-minute red card, they duly did.

Although they failed to score a try, or look close to getting one, the intensity, discipline and tactical awareness – alongside George Ford’s superb kicking – was off the charts in comparison to August and the 27-10 victory was hugely impressive.

Asked if it had proved the doubters wrong, the players were united in saying that just wasn’t part of their thinking.

“No, this is it, this where everybody gets things wrong,” said prop Ellis Genge.

“It’s all ‘right you beat Argentina’ and people celebrating but we’re not relieved. We want to win the World Cup and we’re doing the same thing every week. Consistency, consistency. We said we were building, and nobody believed it.

“There was not one second in the last few weeks that I’ve thought: ‘We’re in trouble here’. I know that’s hard to believe but I haven’t felt like that at all. I’m not saying we’ve cracked it by any sense but it’s a step in the right direction. We’ve been chipping away, doing our graft, and we’re confident.”


Lock Maro Itoje, who had his best game for England for a long while, was also keeping his feet on the ground.

“It was definitely a step forward but we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “We know that there’s a lot more work to do. We know that if we are going to be the team we want to be, that has to be the base level. That can’t be us peaking.”

Describing how the squad had developed since the shock home defeat by Fiji in their final warm-up, Itoje said: “It’s been a collective process – honest conversations with the coaches and honest conversations amongst the players. We knew we had to have a deeper understanding of what we want to do and how we want to play. Since we’ve come to Le Touquet, we’ve tightened all those things up.”

England face Japan in Nice on Sunday and though they will be confident of another victory that would virtually guarantee a quarter-final slot, they will be desperate to avoid any more red cards, with the associated suspensions.

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Rugby Union – Rugby World Cup 2023 – Pool D – Japan v Chile – Stadium Municipal de Toulouse, Toulouse, France – September 10, 2023 Japan players celebrate in front of fans after the match

Curry’s was the fourth red they have received in the last six games and although one was rescinded, the other three were all for dangerous tackles to the head.

Everyone in the camp talked about Curry being unlucky, “split-second decisions” etc, but the coaches will be doubling down on tackle technique and hammering home the message that approaching a ball carrier in an upright position makes a tackler hugely vulnerable to a card.