Reviewing England’s Rugby World Cup performance.

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The first Rugby World Cup in Asia saw England falter at the final hurdle, and South Africa crowned Rugby World Champions once again.

Eddie Jones’ side were a team transformed from the abysmal 2015 group exit and their route to the final was phenomenal. They defeated three of the four teams from the Rugby Championship and were so close to confirming the shift of power between the southern and northern hemisphere teams.

Despite topping their pool, despite their final game being called off, there were still doubts surrounding the team going into the quarters. Three relatively easy wins over Tonga, USA and Argentina meant England had yet to be challenged.

Many thought Michael Cheika’s Australian side might surprise his fellow countryman Jones. England answered their critics in emphatic fashion and steamrolled the Wallabies 40-16, with 20 points courtesy of Owen Farrell’s boot.

They then went a step further and played some of the best rugby they’ve ever played when they saw off the All Blacks 19-7 in the semi-finals, a score which frankly flatters New Zealand.

Their physical and fast playing style gave them the perfect start when Manu Tuilagi finished off a brilliant attacking sequence. This was England’s only try of the match and came inside two minutes. This was followed by a monumental defensive effort for the next 78 minutes that cemented their place in the final.

Sam Underhill and Maro Itoje both delivered inspired performances. Underhill recording 16 tackles with only Ardie Savea making more with 19, and Itoje was crucial at the breakdown. He forced three turnovers whilst stifling a powerful New Zealand back row.

But unfortunately it seems England played their final a week too early, as Wales coach Warren Gatland put it. After the effort needed to defeat the All Blacks their physicality was no match for the Springboks, who showed complete control at the scrum, and a supreme defence to nullify an England attack which had run rampant throughout the tournament. Jones’ side failed to fire a shot and their frustration led to too many mistakes.

Player of the tournament:

It could so easily go to either Underhill or Itoje, but my vote has to go to Tom Curry. He was England’s youngest player at just 21 and has gone from strength to strength since his breakout performance in this year’s Six Nations, featuring in all six of England’s games.

He put in consistently aggressive and convincing performances on route to the final and in turn was nominated for men’s player of the year. His ball carrying was strong, his defensive effort superb and his work at the breakdown was nothing short of destructive as one half of England’s forceful flanker pairing with Underhill.

What’s next?

Despite coming up short in the final, Eddie Jones has put this team into a superb position. The young players will improve leaps and bounds by the 2023 World Cup and their already strong squad depth will only get better.

The 2020 Six Nations will be a chance for them to cement their place as the best team in the Northern Hemisphere and its very likely Jones will carry on as head coach.

The hurt of losing in a World Cup final will only act as motivation for this team and they’ll be determined to do better. They’ll find comfort in Wales, Ireland and France each having a new head coach and the subsequent growing pains that come with that. Expect a dominant Six Nations from Eddie Jones and England.

Sub-edited by Ryan Moran

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