CLIVE WOODWARD: George Ford's World Cup masterclass was rugby majesty

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: George Ford’s masterclass was rugby majesty at its FINEST – England responded to Tom Curry’s red card against Argentina and this is a much-needed World Cup win

  • How England handled adversity on Saturday will give them lots of confidence
  • Steve Borthwick’s side suffered an early red card but defeated Argentina 27-3 
  • Fly-half George Ford was outstanding as he scored all 27 points for the Red Rose 

In the build-up to England’s World Cup opener with Argentina on Saturday night, I wrote about the need for Steve Borthwick’s side to maintain their discipline and keep 15 players on the field.

After summer red cards and suspensions for Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola, I wanted England’s players to have learned their lessons. All that went out the window after three minutes in Marseille. But I don’t blame Tom Curry for his sending off against the Pumas.

That England defied going down to 14 to get their World Cup campaign off to a winning start against all the odds and on the back of an awful tournament preparation is remarkable.

The team has had so much criticism in the build-up to this World Cup and rightly so. But they deserve praise for the way they handled such adversity against Argentina to come out on top. It will do wonders for their confidence. George Ford played superbly.

His three first-half drop goals were simply brilliant and to end with all 27 points was a just reward for his performance. Borthwick’s smile in the coaching box in the final 15 minutes said it all!

England did brilliantly to fight back from a poor start and beat Argentina 27-3 on Saturday

George Ford played superbly in scoring all 27 points for Steve Borthwick’s men in Marseille

The way they secured the win on the back of an awful tournament preparation is remarkable

My opinion on Curry’s incident is it was not a red card in any shape or form. I feel so sorry for Curry. It was just an accident. Curry’s head-on-head contact with Juan Cruz Mallia was what I call a ‘rugby incident.’ 

The sport is in trouble in my opinion if those sorts of collisions are deemed worthy of a sending off. Whether or not there is intent in a player’s actions should not and does not impact a referee’s decision. I understand that. 

But I really do not know what Curry was supposed to do to not get into that position. I think it was worthy of a yellow card. Curry’s incident was neither deliberate not vindictive. Rugby is getting itself into trouble.

These sorts of decisions will have a big impact on the sport’s future. As a coach, the last thing you want is to lose players to yellow or red cards. So what do you do? If you’re in charge of a team, you’re going to be asking yourself “How do I avoid members of my team being sent off or spending 10 minutes in the sin bin?”

The answer, perhaps, is to tell your players not to compete at all for the ball in the air and for them to be absolutely nowhere near the opposition when their feet aren’t on the floor.

Will Jordan’s yellow card in New Zealand’s defeat by France on Friday night was for a similar sort of incident and that was very costly to the All Blacks. Fortunately for England, they were saved by Ford.

That aside, what sort of sport will we have if rugby’s aerial collisions are removed? Argentina also lost Santiago Carreras to a yellow card but even that was harsh.

I was hugely disappointed to see the long queues fans had to endure getting into the game in Marseille. It was unacceptable. The French authorities have had years to plan for this World Cup.

The England No 10’s three first half drop goals were sublime as he ended the match on 27 points

I don’t blame Tom Curry (centre left) for his sending off after three minutes against the Pumas

I really don’t know what Curry was supposed to do there – it was worthy of a yellow card for me

We’ve seen other crowd issues at big sporting occasions in France in recent years. Liverpool supporters won’t forget the 2022 Champions League final and the huge queues to get in.

There were real problems around that. You’d like to have thought French authorities would have learned lessons, but the start of the World Cup has shown that not to be the case.

There were a number of issues at the stadiums in both Marseille and Bordeaux on Saturday which need to be resolved by tournament organisers as soon as possible. Especially with France due to host next year’s Olympics.

Lots of fans missed the kick-off of England’s win. Maybe it was a good thing they were still queuing when Curry was sent off! England responded brilliantly.

Argentina all of a sudden seemed nervous, like they were expected to win. And those nerves and errors got even worse the more Ford kicked his goals.

His drop goal tactic was executed perfectly. The drop goal seems to have gone out of the game, but it is a brilliant option if your team is struggling in attack as England are right now.

There was one occasion in the first half when England did have the chance to run after a spilled Argentina ball. Five England players were up against two Pumas defenders.

But awful passing from Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant sent Jonny May into touch. England totally butchered that opportunity through a shocking inability to execute basic skills.

What you couldn’t fault England for was heart and effort. It wasn’t a classic, far from it in fact. Not that England will care! It would have been easy to feel sorry for themselves after Curry’s red and accept defeat. 

Thousands of fans were stuck outside Stade Velodrome ahead of England versus Argentina 

The way Ford led the team around the park to a famous victory was rugby majesty at its finest

But they showed impressive courage in the face of adversity. Their scrum went well and they made the most of poor Argentina discipline. Ford didn’t miss his kicks. Maro Itoje stepped up big time. England’s line speed in defence was good and the big shots flew in.

England’s tactics were excellent. Argentina played into their hands. But Borthwick’s side did exactly what they should have done after losing a man by limiting their mistakes and capitalising on those made by the opposition. Ford was an ocean of calm amid the chaos. England’s scrum was good.

The way Ford led and guided the team around the park to a famous victory was rugby majesty at its finest. It was a much-needed win. 

After Curry’s red card, few would have seen it coming.

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