Don’t Let the Triumph Over Chile Cloud Your Judgement - England are in for Tougher Challenges
England’s victory over Chile was expected rather than earnt. A giant superpower of the sport vs the newcomers was never going to be a challenge for England and that is exactly how it turned out. England convincingly won the game but there are definitely still areas of their game left to improve. Whilst the individual brilliance of Arundell and Smith was something to be marvelled at, there were still some glaring problems that would need to be addressed. Given the sheer ferocity and excellence of Ireland and South Africa’s clash, England will surely expect an immense battle whomever they face in the knockout rounds of the tournament.
England have performed better than expected off the back of a calamitous few weeks containing the warm up games. The statement win of the three was suppressing a hard hitting Argentina side when many thought the Red Roses would come short. Ford’s brilliance on that day was the deciding factor but ultimately, the lack of try scorers did pose an issue. With that problem being solved against Japan and Chile, England can now focus on correcting other areas of their game plan.
Scoring tries is one thing but defending against the attacking prowess of France or New Zealand requires extreme focus and unbreakable tactics. England did not possess any form of a strong defensive structure in the first twenty minutes against Chile, which benefited the South American team. By utilising a ‘broken’ field of play, Chile were able to wreak havoc, often running many metres to enter England’s 22. Although unable to capitalise on points, England must improve this area as world class teams will not be so ineffective and will punish their mistakes.
If Borthwick’s plan for this match was to see a reaction from the players that haven’t been selected yet, then he certainly can come to a conclusion over who should be in the matchday squad. Smith and Arundell have to be involved in future games, demonstrated by their try scoring abilities they bring to the team. However, the displays from Max Malins and Billy Vunipola will make the decision for Borthwick a fairly simple one. Malins was ineffective and was regularly beaten around the outside in contrast to Arundell’s exciting ability that was utilised well. The Bristol bound winger did not pose any threat to a disorganised and inexperienced Chilean team in a game where he needed to demonstrate his skills in order to lay a claim for his spot in the team.
Vunipola also did not take his chance to impress. The Saracens number 8 has been a shadow of his former self since the 2019 World Cup. A great ball carrier with a knack for breaking the gain line has now transformed into a fruitless player who simply does not perform when asked to. Ben Earl, who appears to be Borthwick’s first choice at number 8 now, made more metres despite coming off the bench in the 68th minute. Earl provides energy and lightning pace to cause chaos at the breakdown whereas Vunipola offers little to no impact at the ruck. Despite this, Borthwick appears to select players he prefers to fit his specific game plan. The form of Jonny May and Dan Cole were questionable coming into the World Cup but if they are selected, it may spell the end of England’s campaign.
The youth on display was promising but given Borthwick’s selections since his appointment, it may be short-lived. Farrell is in line to return to the starting lineup, forcing Smith back down to the bench. England’s next game in two weeks time against Samoa should be treated as another experimental game; a chance to solidify their defence and explore attacking options. Marcus Smith must be let loose, whether that be at fly half or full back, but the reliance on Ford and Farrell may quash England’s slim chances of winning their first World Cup since 2003. Whilst the demolition of Chile was a great victory, England should be worried of their future opponents with major issues still present in the team.