the favorites and the favorites of our special correspondents

George Ford versus Juan Martin Gonzalez. Federico Pestellini / PANORAMIC

Find out what pleased, and less pleased, our two rugby specialists present at the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille during the victory of the XV de la Rose in the World Cup against the Pumas (27-10).


The drop brought up to date

Rugby neophytes who watched the France – New Zealand match on Friday evening may not yet know of the existence of the drop. And for good reason: none was attempted in 80 minutes. The gesture is rare in modern rugby. So, when a player attempts – and succeeds – three in the same match, it is noteworthy. Against Argentina on Saturday, the English opener George Fordmatched the World Cup performance of a certain… Jonny Wilkinson (against France in 2003). And allowed his team to break away in the first half, outnumbered. The record still belongs to South African Jannie De Beer, author of five successful drops in 1999 against the English. Proof that the gesture was on the menu of the day, the Argentinian fly-half Santiago Carreras also tried the exercise (34e), without success.

A Velodrome on fire

Despite a cacophony in the organization (see below), the supporters of both teams were able to create a wonderful atmosphere in a magnificent setting. Special mention to the English. Coming in numbers, they sang several times Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Covered at the start by Argentinian whistles, the chorus gradually took hold during the match.

The cold realism of the English

We could fear the worst for a XV de la Rose reduced to 14 from the start. Quite the opposite happened. The English were galvanized by their numerical inferiority. They hardly missed a chance to score. Led by a gala George Ford, they knew how to feed off all the Argentinian errors. Without being very dangerous with ball in hand, they gradually widened the gap and were able to annihilate all South American initiatives. A lesson in pragmatism for a team that many would have liked to bury too quickly after a disappointing 2023.

A unique but effective English hinge

Called up at the last minute to replace hopeful Jack van Poortvliet, who had withdrawn from the competition, English scrum-half Alex Mitchell was promoted to the starting position against the Pumas on Saturday. A mark of confidence when the Northampton player only had six small selections. Despite some hesitation, his ociation with George Ford worked perfectly. The Sale Sharks opener took advantage of the absence of Owen Farrell, who was suspended, to take control of the game. With success, since he scored his team’s 27 points.


A sluggish Argentina

It’s an understatement to say that we rarely saw the Argentines with ball in hand. Stifled by the English defenders, Boffelli’s teammates were never able to find the keys to the match. They scored a try in the 79th minute but their game was too polluted by hand faults (15 in total) and bad choices. Penalized 13 times, including 8 in the second half, they fed the English realistic but not very creative. Qualification for the quarter-finals is not compromised, but if the Pumas do not find an offensive solution, it is difficult to envisage a good run, while their table is rather favorable.

A fairly poor match offensively

The try scored by the Argentinians at the last minute changes nothing. Unless you were an English fan, it was difficult to get excited about this match. The English certainly did what was necessary to win, but they were never able to put themselves in a position to score a try, even missing several chances. The occupation game was often imprecise with numerous balls returned to the opponent’s 22 meters.

Curry sees red

Sanctioned in the 3rd minute with a yellow card transformed into a red for a head-to-head hit on Argentine number 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, Tom Curry should miss his team’s next matches. Indiscipline is chronic among the English, already deprived for this match of their emblematic captain Owen Farrell, excluded against Wales in a preparation match. A big black spot. We will have to rectify the situation, especially against Samoa, renowned for their rough game.

Disrupted access to the Vélodrome

The stands of the Vélodrome were not full at the time of the anthems. This is due to difficult access for supporters to the surroundings of the enclosure. Images circulating on social media show thousands of fans stranded outside the stadium, minutes before kick-off. Information confirmed by witnesses to journalists from Figaro on the spot. Some rows were still sparse after five minutes of play. The disenchantment between the English public and the French stadiums is growing, more than a year after the events that occurred around the Stade de France before the final of the 2022 Champions League football between Liverpool and Real Madrid. Victims of attacks on the premises and organizational failures, many Reds supporters were unable to access the Saint-Denis grounds in time, before being ged by the police.

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