Once again without offering much play, England won, for their second group match (34-12). As against Argentina, George Ford and his team carved out their success with patience and by relying on a strategy of constant footwork. After facing the two biggest pieces of its group, the XV de la Rose positions itself in first place and seems to be heading towards qualification in the quarter-finals.
In the last century, English football made part of its reputation with kick and rush. A style of play which consisted of sending the ball far in front and hoping that someone, wearing the same jersey, collects it, on the other side of the field. Why on earth give yourself a football lesson in the middle of the Rugby World Cup? Quite simply because, a century late, the English rugby players copied the model, this Sunday September 17 against Japan. A successful adaptation. But without much interest in the show…
Ford-Matsuda, it’s the foot
Questioned during the week, at a press conference, Jamie Joseph had spoiled part of this evening’s match, affirming that “the kicking game [était] one of the keys to the English game”. Visionary, the Japanese manager. However, after watching the match, it seems that the English kit contains a lot of doubles… And that all the keys lead to the kicking game.
If they had trained all week to receive pressure plays, the Brave Blossom were not disappointed. From the start of the meeting, George Ford draws his favorite weapon. Opposite, Matsuda and Lemeki respond in the same way. On both sides, the strategy is clear: we must keep the opponent under pressure, at home. And wait for the fault. Matsuda three times and Ford twice scored penalties. In the middle of all this, Ludlam scored a strong try, poorly constructed, but which had the merit of putting his team in front at the break (13-9).
An improbable shift
As against Argentina, a week earlier, Steve Borthwick’s men closed the game. They are not there to put on a show. Only the result counts. And unfortunately for the public, the rest of the match proves them right again. While the score is still very close (55th, 13-12), the game changes in a twist of fate. The English are attacking the opposing camp and, lost in the line of attack, an English player receives the ball on the head. Without wanting to, he unbalances the defense and offers a caviar, in the meantime, for Courtney Lawes. The latter just has to flatten (56th, 20-12). The Japanese will never come back.
From then on, the English plan unfolded, without changing one iota. Without any flashes, but without making a mistake either, the latter dominate the end of the match. While they finished better physically, their Japanese counterparts were off track and suffered two new attempts, including one in the very last seconds (66th and 80th).
Qualification in sight
A week after its inaugural success against Argentina, the XV de la Rose is at it again and remains at the top of its group. All that remains is to face Chile and Samoa before thinking about the quarter-finals, which seem to be looming. Although we announced them in roses, the 2003 World Champions are here. And given their ease in unbalancing the opponent, sometimes even without playing, it might be a good idea to avoid them in tough matches…