Steve Borthwick's men didn't make the trip to the aptly named Promenade des Anglais for nothing. On September 17, the XV de la Rose left Nice with a clear victory (34-12) against Japan, with the offensive bonus point as a bonus.
With nine points, England takes the lead in Group D, before facing Chile and Samoa, the two teams a priori weakest in the group.
In this long balanced game, the game was disrupted by numerous advances on both sides. The Japanese were courageous, well organized, but too clumsy to hope for better. If they, at times, managed to wrap up the match, they let an incalculable number of balls escape.
As for the English, they can thank their opener George Ford, author of two penalties and four conversions (14 points) and a full match. Its numerous candles, which rose very high in the Provençal sky, allowed its team to play most often in the Japanese camp.
Ford, le Lucky Luke de Sale
Already the author of three drops against Argentina on Saturday September 9, Sale's Lucky Luke did it again. Unlike what happened in Marseille, this time all English supporters were able to enter the stadium in time for kick-off. The organizers of the World Cup were able to rectify the situation after the incidents observed at the entrance to the Vélodrome last week, which the British press made a big deal of.
George Ford only owes his presence on the field to the suspension for dangerous play of the English captain, Owen Farrell, for the first two matches of the World Cup. But many British observers would like to see him extend his interim position as playmaker of the XV à la Rose. At this rate, they'll soon have to erect a statue to him.
For the rest, the English delivered an insipid copy. The disappointment comes mainly from their forwards, who were supposed to clearly dominate the Japanese pack, the weak point of the “Cherry Blossoms” (the Cherry Blossoms, their emblem). Against Chile a week earlier, Japan missed a record 28 tackles. Would they be able to compete with players of the caliber of Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes and Billy Vunipola returning from suspension?
Ultimately, the Japanese pack suffered, but it did not fold. The rare mauls attempted by the English were most often unsuccessful, and they had to rely on the boot of their opener to gain ground.
Japanese people with a New Zealand accent
It is true that the Japanese have called on numerous New Zealand forwards in recent years to strengthen their pack. Present this evening on the pitch, the third rows Amato Fakatawa (1.95 m, 118 kg) and Michael Leitch (1.90 m, 113 kg), as well as the second row Warner Dearns (2.02 m, 122 kg) , could have played for the All Blacks.
When it comes to rugby, there are numerous exchanges between the Land of the White Cloud and the Land of the Rising Sun. The coach of the Japanese team, Jamie Joseph, is also of Maori origin. But it is unlikely that the All Blacks will ever drop as many balls as their Japanese counterparts tonight.
The start of the match was rather exciting, with the Japanese bravely trying their luck. When they managed to move the balls towards the wings, they put the English in difficulty. If they had to wait until the 7th minute to venture into the opposing camp, the “Brave Blossoms” (the courageous flowers, their other nickname) camped there for twenty minutes, the time to collect two penalties and go ahead at the score (3-6).
Following a Japanese mix-up near their goal line, third row Lewis Ludlam, however, scored a lucky try in the 23rd minute, which allowed the English to get back in front. Feverish, the latter showed themselves to be undisciplined, to the point of being refused two touches. Despite everything, the XV à la Rose managed to return to the locker room with a four-point lead (13-9).
In the second half, the English continued their game of winning ground using candles. Without imagination, the XV de la Rose also relied, once again, on luck. In the 55th minute, it took a gag try for him to finally widen the gap (20-12), the ball bouncing off Joe Marler's skull, making it appear like a forward - which the video showed finally denied -, before Courtney Lawes flattened between the posts.
" Room for improvement "
In the 65th minute, the fate of the match changed definitively: on a beautiful lobbed pass from Ford, Steward flattened at the end of the line without opposition. The Japanese dike had given way and the English were going to rush into the breach, scoring a fourth try at the last minute through Joe Marchant.
“We managed to score four tries,” Steve Borthwick tried to be positive after the match. Our offensive game will continue to improve. Some teams have had four years or more to get their game in place. We had four months. We still have a lot of room for improvement, this team will continue to grow. »
In Pool D, England did the hardest part and will be able to rotate their squad on September 23 against Chile at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium in Lille, before taking on Samoa on October 7 in this same venue, where they will probably be like home. Japan has a meeting with Samoa on September 28 at the Toulouse Stadium, then on October 8 with Argentina at the Beaujoire stadium in Nantes.