"Don't Fear Wales or Australia" - Ex-England Winger Praises Steve Borthwick's 'Ruthless' Team - Ruck

“Don’t Fear Wales or Australia” – Ex-England Winger Praises Steve Borthwick’s ‘Ruthless’ Team

Former England winger James Simpson-Daniel believes that Steve Borthwick’s side have re-gained their ‘ruthless’ edge, following the 27-10 win over Argentina. England started their Rugby World Cup campaign with a big win in Pool D, with Simpson-Daniel not viewing England’s potential quarter-final opponents as anything to fear.

If England progress out of Pool D, they will face either the winners or runners-up of Pool C. After the opening round of matches, the front-runners for these two spots are Wales and Australia. The former Gloucester man is delighted with the lop-sided draw for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and believes that England would back themselves to beat either of Warren Gatland or Eddie Jones’ sides.

Speaking to OLBG, Simpson-Daniel said; It was hugely impressive (England’s win over Argentina) and it would have made people sit up and take notice. We were a totally different side to the one that we saw in the build up to the World Cup, for whatever reason! It was almost like England had their ruthlessness back. Their discipline was better, the incident with Tom Curry notwithstanding, at no point in the game did it look like we were going to lose.

“We have talked about England feeding off the Saracens frenzy. They way they celebrate small things which give them energy, that was there against Argentina. It looked as though they’d really honed in on what they were up to, and what they needed to do. Did it take the red card for that to happen? I hope not. I would have thought that would be there anyway.

“I am not getting carried away. I am not saying this side is going to win the World Cup. But you can’t get away from the fact that we are on the ’right side of the draw’. It is always great when something goes to plan. Their minds seemed really on the way, they all seemed to do their jobs well individually and collectively and if we take one game at a time, come the knockout stages I don’t think we would be fearing Wales or Australia in the quarter finals if that’s how it pans out.

“It was a statement performance and at no time did the Pumas look to be able to dominate in any area play. And that was with a one man advantage for 78 minutes. They will be bitterly disappointed. The bookies had them to win. We had complete control and dominance.”

Simpson-Daniel was full of praise for England fly-half George Ford, who led the line against Argentina in a stunning performance. The Sale Sharks man slotted three ‘Wilkinson-esque’ drop goals, and kicked a further six penalties from the tee. Simpson-Daniel compared Ford’s performance, to that of England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winning halfback.

“That was an absolute masterclass by George Ford in terms of game mismanagement. That was the best performance by an England fly-half since Johnny Wilkinson in his pomp. What he did was adapt, he has such a good brain. Everyone says he basically runs training like Sexton does for Ireland.

“He immediately adapted his performance to the conditions and the situation England found themselves in so early in the game. He changed everything, took the game by the scruff of the neck and literally bossed it. Keeping the scoreboard ticking over, his game management was outstanding. That was a world class masterpiece that he showed.

“England were getting a lot of flak in the build up to the tournament and understandably that was a day to put a lot of things right. England will now be backing themselves to go a long way now in this tournament. The confidence this will have given them is enormous.”

George Ford is expected to start at fly-half again this Sunday, as Owen Farrell serves the final match of his four-game suspension. However, once Japan are in the rear-view mirror, Borthwick has a tough selection decision to make, as to whether he keeps Ford in the 10 jersey, or returns the spot to his captain Farrell.

Under Eddie Jones, Ford and Farrell formed a strong 10-12 partnership, which took England to the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final, and also won the 2020 Six Nations title. Simpson-Daniel discussed Borthwick’s upcoming decision, and mentioned how he feels sorry for Marcus Smith, with the Harlequins talisman pushed to the wayside in the fly-half debate.

“That is the real hard one now for Borthwick. Do you force Farrell in at inside-centre? There is no doubt he will come back into the side when he is available in my opinion. Borthwick could say ‘thanks George Ford you were outstanding but Owen Farrell is my captain and my starting fly half.’ Or you have them playing together.

“It would be a massive call to drop Ford. Borthwick has always said he would pick players on form, something he always wanted when he was a player.  And on the back of the way he is playing you couldn’t drop Ford. It will be fascinating to see.

“The one player I feel sorry for in all of this is Marcus Smith. He is not going to start at fly half now. He won’t be seeing anything of the ten shirt. I don’t agree with this talk of him now being the reserve fullback who will come on to be a game changer.”

One player that is set to miss the Japan game regardless of Borthwick’s selection is Tom Curry. After recovering from a problematic ankle injury, Curry made his return to rugby for his first match since the 2023 Premiership Final. However, less than three minutes into the contest, Curry clashed heads with Argentine fullback Juan Cruz Mallia, with Curry taking a trip to the bunker for an eventual red card.

Curry faces a three match ban, yet a successful completion of a tackling course will reduce this down to two games. The Sale flanker will miss this Sunday’s match against Japan, and the clash with Rugby World Cup debutants Chile the following weekend. Should Curry complete the course he will return in time for the Pool D closer against Samoa on October 7th.

“I didn’t think it was a red card at the time and my position has not changed.” Simpson-Daniel added. “It was clumsy but there was nothing malicious about it. I thought it was a penalty and a yellow card. No upgrade.

“If Curry’s is red, then 100% so is (Santiago) Carreras’ (collision with George Ford). It was just the same for me. I think they’re both yellow cards. The problem is the consistency is not there. And that is not right.

“Curry’s dismissal could have changed the game entirely. You see so many games spoilt by a red card.”