SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: England must play fast to beat Argentina
7th September 2023

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: England must play fast to beat Argentina… there’s nothing to lose! The signs are positive and show Steve Borthwick is willing to change and admit making errors

  • England’s World Cup opener against Argentina is set to be classic encounter 
  • Steve Borthwick’s side must play fast to claim victory and have nothing to lose 
  • The signs are positive and show Borthwick is willing to change and admit errors 
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

England’s willingness to consider Marcus Smith as a full back option and start Alex Mitchell in their World Cup opener hopefully points to a much-needed change in strategy.

Mitchell’s expected selection at scrum-half gives me the sense Steve Borthwick has acknowledged his team must play with far greater pace.

If England are to go down that route against Argentina, I’d prefer Smith to start in his preferred position of No 10, especially with captain Owen Farrell suspended.

Smith came on in the 15 jersey in the awful warm-up defeat by Fiji and injected some much-needed speed. He scored a try, too.

Freddie Steward will, in all likelihood, start at full back against Argentina but England need to change their mindset completely.

England’s willingness to include Marcus Smith at full back suggests a change in strategy

Steve Borthwick has indicated he is willing to admit making errors in selection and tactics

Their tactics are far too conservative to win a World Cup. That’s highlighted by the amount of ball they kick away.

They were slow from all phases of play in the warm-ups, especially the lineout. And they didn’t win!

I am hoping Borthwick has the capacity to adapt and evolve his tactics and have England fans on their feet going crazy by the way the team are playing. 

That is a sign of an exceptional head coach. The proof of the pudding will be seen in Marseilles on Saturday night and it really is building up nicely to be a classic encounter. 

I do like the signs I’m seeing. They indicate Borthwick is willing to change and admit making errors in selection and tactics, which is never easy to do. 

England will have to attack as the Pumas are very dangerous, especially behind the scrum.

Mitchell and Smith are exciting players. Supporters and the media get hung up on selection, but even more important is the team’s approach and intent.

Alex Mitchell’s expected selection shows Borthwick knows his team must play far quicker

The style has been too conservative to win a World Cup despite there being nothing to lose

There is no point starting Mitchell and having Smith involved if Borthwick is going to tell his team to persist with the same approach he’s used since taking over from Eddie Jones.

The return of Henry Arundell is also a boost and I’d love to see him involved against Argentina. A back line containing Mitchell, Smith and Arundell would be very exciting. I would have Arundell at 15 and Freddie Steward at 12 with Smith at 10 and a game plan based on attack, attack, attack.

Borthwick still has to decide on whether he starts George Ford or Smith at No 10. Tough call, but if England plan to throw caution to the wind, then Smith is the man.

Changing tactics on the eve of a World Cup is a not a risk as long as you have players who will be excited and believe this is the way to beat Argentina and have a successful tournament.

This team have nothing to lose. Play fast and I take England to win by one point.

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