Dan Cole is set for a SHOCK start for England in World Cup opener

Dan Cole is set for a SHOCK start for England in their World Cup opener against Argentina… as he admits he had a ‘point to prove’ after final mauling in 2019

  • Dan Cole is primed for his fourth World Cup adventure with England this year 
  • In a surprise twist, he is set to start against Argentina in Marseille on Saturday 
  • His revival has been impressive and caught the eye of coach Steve Borthwick 
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

Dan Cole is primed for a fourth World Cup adventure after his 2019 ordeal against the Beast, the misery of England’s pool-stage exit in 2015… and being left holding Manu Tuilagi’s phone when he jumped into Auckland harbour in 2011.

The 36-year-old Leicester prop is set to start against Argentina in Marseille on Saturday; a career twist which would have seemed unthinkable after he was overwhelmed by the Springbok scrum destroyer, Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, in the last final in Yokohama, four years ago. 

Cole went back to his club, licked his wounds and revived so impressively with the Tigers that he has forced his way back into the first-choice Red Rose pack under Steve Borthwick.

Now, the veteran is ready for another global showpiece, which he had assumed would pass him by. 

‘For the past three of those four years, I didn’t think it would happen,’ he said on Wednesday. ‘But now I’m here, and I’m very happy to be part of it. I think in some regards, after 2019, the final, what happened, it would have been easy just to drift. But then Steve (Borthwick) came to Leicester, he gave us a purpose and a task and it was an easy thing to buy into.’

Dan Cole is set to be handed a shock start in England’s World Cup opener against Argentina

The 36-year-old prop has admitted he has a ‘point to prove’ after being overwhelmed in 2019

Potential England team

F Steward (Leicester); E Daly (Saracens), J Marchant (Stade Francais), M Tuilagi (Sale), J May (Gloucester); G Ford (Sale), A Mitchell (Northampton); E Genge (Bristol), J George (Saracens), D Cole (Leicester); M Itoje (Saracens), O Chessum (Leicester); C Lawes (capt. Northampton), B Earl (Saracens), T Curry (Sale)

‘You come back from a World Cup and have a bit of a point to prove, or a grievance. You have that annoyance in yourself that you want to put things right, as you always do after a loss. That is the way I have been brought through at Leicester and England. You want to put things right straight away. The world keeps turning and you just get on with it.

‘You owe it to your team-mates and the people around you to pull your head out of you’re a**e and contribute. That is part of being a team, part of being a squad and that is what gets you through and what has helped in the past three or four years.’

Cole is one of three players in the current England squad – along with Courtney Lawes and Ben Youngs – who are participating in their fourth World Cup. Asked to reflect on his previous tournament memories, the tighthead said: ‘They have been very different.

‘There’s a lot of stuff about what not to do! When you’re young, like I was in 2011, you think it’s brilliant to be at a World Cup but you can get lost in the experience. It was, “Oh, we’re in Auckland, oh, we’re in Queenstown”, you just go along with the flow and it’s only afterwards when you look back and think, “We f***ed it up. If I could have my time again I would do this or this better” and that’s what you take into the next one.’

Cole was forced to lick his wounds after coming off second best up against Tendai Mtawarira

England’s campaign in 2011 was marred by a series of off-field controversies, which culminated in Tuilagi leaping from a ferry into Auckland harbour, while Cole looked after his valuables. ‘I held his (Manu’s) phone,’ he recalled. ‘As a young person, you learnt what you can and can’t do. If you do that type of stuff, you hurt the squad. It doesn’t for the day, it lasts for the rest of your career.’

Cole is expected to be chosen to wear England’s No 3 shirt against the Pumas, alongside hooker Jamie George and Ellis Genge in the front row. With injury concerns clearing up at the right time, Lawes is fit to lead the national team, with Tom Curry and Ben Earl the other back-rowers. 

In the back line, Northampton scrum-half Alex Mitchell is set to start ahead of the vastly more experienced Ben Youngs, with Danny Care among the replacements.

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