England got the ball rolling on their summer series of matches with a hard-fought win over Wales in the only match of note on Sunday 11 August. Twickenham played host and the stands were packed to the rafters as followers came out in force eager to catch a glimpse of one of the ante-post favourites to win this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
That competition gets started on Friday 20 September when host nation Japan take on Russia live on ITV from 11.45am. England get going with a match against Tonga on Sunday 22 September and that is a tie they are expected to win with a bit to spare but there’s much work to be done between now and then to get the squad in the best shape possible to not only beat Tonga but live up to expectations and go deeper into the tournament.
Many believe this exciting English side has what it takes to go all the way and there will be a fair share of sports betting punters who see the value in backing them to finish on the top step. The next couple of weeks will tell us exactly where England are at in terms of their preparation and although the full squad will be used and we won’t see the team in top gear until they touch down in Japan, the upcoming series will prove to be an educational one, especially for sports bettors.
England Score a Confidence Boosting Win over Wales
So, what did the opening match against Wales tell us regarding how good this England team is and what they should offer at the World Cup. It wasn’t the best performance from the side, that much is true, and it seemed to throw up more questions than answers, but they got the win, minutes in their legs and confidence in the ranks.
The final score on Sunday read England 33 against the 19 of Wales but that didn’t tell the full story of how the match went. England scored three tries thanks to Vunipola, Cokanasiga and Cowan-Dickie. They boosted their tally with three conversions, all hit by Ford, three penalties were scored by the same man and Daly chipped in with a drop goal.
Wales also scored three tries of their own in what was an exciting match, Davies, North and Jones getting on the scoresheet. Only two of those were converted, Anscombe and Biggar doing what was expected of them, and there were no penalties and drop goals to speak of. The scoreline suggests a thumping England win and they were good value for the victory, but that has as much to do with a solid round of kicking than anything else.
Both Coaches Go with Experimental Line Ups
Both teams went with experimental line ups, giving players the chance to build on their fitness while handing others an opportunity to force their way into the World Cup squad. England started with Daly, Cokanasiga, Joseph, Francis, Watson, Ford, Heinz, Genge, Cowan-Dickie, Cole, Launchbury, Ewels, Ludlam, Curry and Vunipola. The substitutes bench was made up of Singleton, Marler, Williams, Kruis, Lawes, Youngs, Marchant and Tuilagi.
Wales sent an ambitious starting 15 to Twickenham and it was one full of running and promise. The line-up read Williams, North, Davies, Parkes, Adams, Anscombe, Davies, Smith, Owens, Francis, Beard, Jones, Wainwright, Tipuric and Moriarty. The subs were Dee, Jones, Lewis, Ball, Shingler, Davies, Biggar and Watkin.
There was confidence in the away dressing room as they arrived at the venue on the back of a stunning 14-game winning streak. They believed they had what it took to stretch that to a perfect 15 but it wasn’t to be, the purple patch ending against England, and in some style too. Wales are ranked number two in the world due to that incredible run of form but they were beaten by the better side on the day and looked a good bit off the pace of their opponents at times. The hosts got off to a stunning start, laying down a marker for the match ahead, with Billy Vunipola and Joe Cokanasiga scoring. A lesser team than Wales would’ve been left reeling from the damage done early but the visitors stuck to their game plan and weren’t in the mood to roll over and play dead. Gareth Evans scored a stunning solo effort that got the away fans up out of their seats, reminding their opponents they were involved in a competitive contest.
Luke Cowan-Dickie scored his first try for England and timed it to perfection as it gave his side a solid lead going into the break and that made the half-time team talk easier for the England coaching staff. Seemingly following the example of their opponents, it was Wales who made the better start to the second 40 minutes, exploding out of the traps and narrowing the gap between the teams. George North recorded a strong try and that was backed up by Wyn Jones. We went from a comfortable England win to a close match and the fans of both sides responded in full voice, desperate to drive on their favourites.
Wales’ Wait for a Win at Twickenham Continues
Wales haven’t managed to win at Twickenham since 2015 and that wait continues as England showed their fighting spirit to get over the line. It was important for the home players to put on a show as head coach Eddie Jones named his final World Cup squad on Monday, less than 24 hours after the Wales win. We’re sure he had an idea of what he wanted before that match, but it gave the players sitting on the fringes a chance to shine and force their way into the pool.
Eddie Jones certainly had his work cut out for him in whittling down the numbers as a strong case could be made for everyone involved in the Wales win winning a seat on the plane to Japan. The coach spoke to the press at the conclusion of Sunday’s match and joked that he would enjoy some red wine at home and seek the advice of his dog before penning in his final selections. It’s not the easiest part of being England coach, of course, but it’s his job to pick the side he believes will have the best chance of winning the World Cup in Japan.
Players all want to be involved in the autumn spectacle but must remember the team coach’s job, future and reputation rests on how England perform at the World Cup. They are expected to do well by bookmakers but that won’t count for much in the dressing room and on the training park. Get it right and Eddie Jones will leave a legacy and be remembered as one of the true greats of English rugby. Call it wrong and he could find himself unemployed before Christmas. There’s a fine line between success and failure which England must tread carefully.
The final squad will then be put through a few more warm-up matches before turning their attentions to the World Cup. It will be disappointing for those who miss out, but every player has been given a fair chance at being selected and they should remember anything can happen between now and the plane taking off for Japan. Injuries and sickness are always a threat and that could force the coaching staff to shuffle the pack.
From here, England will now face three more tests. They take on Wales in Cardiff on 17 August before facing Ireland and Italy, the latter sure to be a confidence-boosting win and a match that allows the players to add a final bit of fitness and match sharpness. Ireland made light work of Italy on Saturday 10 August and that would suggest England will encounter little competition that day. Having said that, the Italians are a plucky side who will have a go and they twice took the lead against Ireland before collapsing to defeat late. That match may just be a little more interesting than the results suggest.
England’s Final World Cup Squad Announced and it Caused Debate
On Monday afternoon news broke of England’s World Cup squad and it caused debate amongst fans, former players and pundits. Social media made for very interesting reading in fact with some responses suggesting it was surprising to see only one Gloucester player in the squad while others said it was madness to pick two tightheads. As the old saying goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Here’s England’s World Cup team in full…
Surprises in the line up that got fans talking
The two surprise selections were Northampton flanker Lewis Ludlham and Bath winger Ruaridh McConnoochie, the latter an uncapped player. That caused a few murmurs of surprise and it is a gamble on the coaching team’s side. Will it payout? Only time will tell how these players will handle the pressures of playing for England at a World Cup they are expected to go close to winning.
Popular centre Ben Te’o was left out and that upset a few fans although there was joy for Piers Francis who made the grade, despite a few suggesting he would fall short. England starts with a match against Tonga on 22 September and have been dropped into Pool C alongside USA, Argentina and France. They won the tournament in 2003 and are one of the favourites to do so again here.
The early betting has New Zealand as favourites – top price at 6/4 – and that’s a convincing stance. England is next in line at 5/1 and you’ll get that price when betting at Ladbrokes. Many of their competition have the same bet available at 4/1. If you’re going to have a punt on England it’s worth taking advantage of that generosity and betting with Ladbrokes. Landing a profit from rugby is difficult enough without taking less of a price on your selections. Each-way backers will benefit from the safety net of place terms of 1/3 the odds a place 1-2.