SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Keep cool and England will win World Cup opener

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Keep cool and England will win Rugby World Cup opener against Argentina… but I wish Henry Arundell had been given the nod to start

  • England’s Rugby World Cup campaign will start against Argentina on Saturday 
  • While the national team are in slight disarray, I’m confident they can still win it 
  • England will have to be passionate and wary not to lose players to the sin bin 

Is this an England team that can beat Argentina? Absolutely yes. There are 10 players in the matchday squad to face the Pumas in Marseilles on Saturday night who were involved in the 2019 final defeat by South Africa.

Guys like Maro Itoje and Manu Tuilagi have waited four years for this moment. Now, it’s time for them to deliver and put the misery of the August warm-ups in the rearview mirror. England’s Pool D opener with Argentina is a great fixture on what is a mouthwatering opening World Cup weekend.

To beat the Pumas, England have to play with discipline and keep cool heads. In August, we saw both Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola red carded and consequently suspended for the Argentina game for dangerous tackling.

England simply cannot afford for that to happen again. Lessons have to have been learned. One of the big things at this World Cup will undoubtedly be discipline. We are going to see yellow and red cards and I’m sure the new television bunker system will get a lot of use. But it will be the top teams who keep 15 players on the field who will have success. This is a must for England.

England need to blend fire with ice. Passion is required to match the impressive Pumas — but England won’t beat Argentina if they lose men to the sin bin or suffer a red card.

Steve Borthwick will be hopeful that his England side turn-up in their World Cup opener

England had a torrid campaign throughout August but will look to put that behind them

You will be able to tell if England are playing well and have a chance of victory quite early on, by whether or not Tuilagi and Joe Marchant are heavily involved in the game.

If the centre pairing is getting lots of ball, then England will be playing as they need to and it’s game on. If they are anonymous or close to, Steve Borthwick’s side will be in big trouble. England have got to attack to beat Argentina and play a lot faster than they are expecting.

Make no mistake, Michael Cheika’s men are hugely dangerous behind the scrum. England know what is coming but can we surprise them? Alex Mitchell, George Ford and the rest of England’s backs have to have a threat going forward themselves. The selection of Mitchell does suggest England will look to play a quicker game. But I do wish Henry Arundell were involved.

What cannot happen is for England to kick poorly, as they did all summer. If they slow the ball down and boot it aimlessly to Argentina’s back three, they will have a field day. Mateo Carreras, Emiliano Boffelli and Co will cut England to ribbons if they are given time and space to run the ball back from poor kicks.

England must also match Argentina up front. The Pumas have a fire and brimstone pack. In forwards Julian Montoya and Pablo Matera they have world-class talent, though Facundo Isa is a big miss. This is why England need big games from the likes of Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Jamie George and others. I’m surprised Dan Cole is starting but he does have huge experience.

Pablo Matera is a world class talent and England must be at their best to shackle him

Henry Arundell is electric and could light up the big stage if he manages to get on

Cole is another who will want to make amends for the 2019 World Cup final. He had a torrid scrummaging experience that day against the Springboks. But he should know exactly what’s coming against Argentina, especially because he is a Leicester team-mate of Montoya.

England will be underdogs against the Pumas, who beat them at Twickenham last autumn. It will be interesting to see how the South Americans fare in that position. Will they be able to cope with the tag of favourites and the undoubted pressure that comes with it? That’s what good teams do.

Not much is expected of England in France but maybe that’s a good thing. I just really hope they surprise Argentina by the speed with which the team plays.

The warm-up matches are over. This is the real thing now and England need every player to step up to the plate. Do I think they can do that? Yes. England by three.

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