England’s 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign has got off to a very good start, with convincing wins recorded in their two opening Pool C games – seeing off Tonga 35-3 and then the USA side were put to the sword 45-7, in very humid and testing conditions at the Kobe Misaki Stadium.
The two wins leave England top of their Group, with France remaining as the only other team yet to taste defeat in the Pool.
England’s victory over the USA was as comfortable as the result suggests. England ran in seven tries, with the Americans sole score coming late in the game as a mere consolation.
The match though will be more remembered for the brutal tackle on England’s Captain Owen Farrell who, in the 70th minute, was savagely shouldered in the face by Amercian flanker John Quill as he attempted to pick a loose ball up. The ‘tackle’ – though it was more an assault than anything – resulted in a heated confrontation (above) as English players leapt to the defence of their skipper. Luckily, no serious damage or injury was taken by Farrell – and Quill, rightly, received a red card from match referee Nic Berry, who reviewed the incident before confirming the decision. It was the tournaments first red card.
But, for England, this start is as good as it gets. Two wins, no injuries picked up so far, and coach Eddie Jones declared himself happy : “I think we are getting used to the conditions. It was 27 degrees and 70 per cent humidity, the ball was like a cake of soap. “We have got good players who can take a pass, so it must have been difficult conditions. We wanted to be on 10 points after two games, so we are perfect.”
England will need to use this confidence and momentum as they close their Pool C campaign with games against Argentina and France – the two toughest opponents from the original draw. The two clashed in their opening fixture, with France prevailing 23-21 – building a healthy first half lead before an Argentinian fight back to almost claim the spoils at the death – missing a long range penalty that would have given them the win, as opposed to the French. It was a hard fought game – with both sides showing strengths to warn the English against complacency – but also some weaknesses that England can exploit. Argentina will appear on the England radar first, with their game scheduled for the early hours of October 5th. England will know that this is already a do-or-die situation for Los Pumas – a loss will end their 2019 World Cup even with a game to spare, assuming France do not slip up against Tonga or the USA.
Whilst having a fully fit squad, there is one cloud on the horizon. Back Piers Francis has been cited to appear before a disciplinary panel to answer charges relating to a high tackle in the USA game that left recipient Will Hooley with concussion. If the citation is upheld, Francis could receive a suspension as long as six weeks – with two players having already been banned for similar instances (Reece Hodge from Australia and Samoa’s Ray Lee Lo).
But, as England look to mount a challenge to claim their second Rugby World Cup success, it could not have gone much better – so far.
ENGLAND – 2019 RUGBY WORLD CUP – POOL C GROUP GAMES
- September 22 v Tonga – WON 35-3
- September 26 v United States of America – WON 45-7
- October 5 v Argentina
- October 12 v France