Rugby World Cup 2019: England still searching for sparkling display despite Argentina win extending perfect start in Japan

Despite a dominant win, Eddie Jones’s side could not shake Tomas Lavanini’s pre-game criticism

Alan Dymock
Tokyo
Saturday 05 October 2019 13:34
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Eddie Jones pays tribute to late friend Jeff Sayle

With the most exciting rugby games of all time, so much of the match gets coloured-in, in the remembering. The pictures may get smudged over the years, but we still marvel.

England’s assured 39-10 win over Argentina in the 2019 Rugby World Cup was definitely not one of those wonders.

In the build up to the match, former Argentina skipper Agustin Creevy – on the bench for this one – labelled the English game “boring.” This was the opportunity to prove him wrong.

The stadium reverberated with nervous energy before kick-off. England scored through Jonny May, exploiting space on the left. Then Argentina were down to 14 men as menacing lock Tomas Lavanini thumped England captain Owen Farrell’s head with his shoulder in a tackle gone awry and got a red card. All before the 20-minute mark.

And yet, in scoring six tries on the way to a bonus-point win that saw them comfortably into the World Cup knock-outs, they could not loosen the tag Creevy had fastened to them pre-game.

The flashes of brilliance in the game stood out in violent technicolour compared to the stretches of grey.

May buzzed. His try out wide after an England drive towards the line was a 25th for him in 48 England Tests. If he maintains his current blistering rate, he will bolt from his position of sixth on the all-time try-scorer list for England and could surpass Rory Underwood, who is on 49 in 85 games. If he maintains.

England celebrate vs Argentina

Elliot Daly looked sharp too, his own try an arcing run from another drive close to the line, with May eagerly screaming for a second score.

And then there was Jack Nowell, a fan favourite. He scored in his first meaningful match since injuring himself in the Premiership final on June 1.

How do you best reintroduce players to the intense world of Test rugby? New Zealand have waited until they face Namibia this Sunday to bring back world class lock Brodie Retallick. Here Eddie Jones brought Mako Vunipola and Nowell off the bench in the last quarter, with the result assured. Fans will certainly be happy Nowell entered the fray.

Argentina had just scored through a defence-splitting set-piece move, with Matias Moroni finishing it off and running clear of the defence. Quickly back up the other end, Nowell got the ball on the right-hand touchline, with plenty of traffic ahead of him.

May crossed the line for England

He took the ball into contact infield, using the energy of three would-be tacklers to bound right again and then scarper ahead for a try. The supporters were thankful to have him back and made their appreciation heard.

With France up next, in Yokohama, the expectation does not go away. Make no mistake England do not need to cut loose if they are to top the pool at the final tally, they need to win first. As we have heard repeated over and again, winning is all the coach Eddie Jones cares about.

Immediately after the match, Jones said of the victory: “We’re exactly where we wanted to be, with 15 points after three games, we’ve played in front of a fantastic crowded Tokyo stadium and that’s another great day for the World Cup.”

But when you look at the games the other World Cup contenders have put together in fits and starts so far, it would certainly be a comfort for supporters to see a more fluid performance from England before the quarter-finals.

England beat Argentina in Tokyo

There will be concerns over Billy Vunipola’s fitness, after the No 8 came off at half-time against the Pumas. It could still be too early for brother Mako and Nowell to play from minute one against a physical Six Nations rival. France should have better discipline.

And anyway, England still have plenty of ballast in the pack and scavengers to frustrate their rivals. They have a great kick-chase and playmakers able to lace balls through with the boot.

Maybe there will be something graphic on the horizon, in Yokohama, but at the moment England are doing what they need to get by, labels be damned.

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