SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: England’s defeat is gut-wrenching, but Steve Borthwick’s team must hold their heads high after running world champions South Africa so close in semi-final heartbreak
- England were just moments away from reaching the Rugby World Cup final
- Handre Pollard’s late penalty broke the hearts of Owen Farrell’s battling side
- Sir Clive Woodward insists there is plenty for England to be proud of in defeat
- Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results
This was a gut-wrenching defeat for England to run the world champions so close and lose it in the last two minutes to Handre Pollard’s penalty. But it is hard to be critical of the team because they did so well last night and they can hold their heads up high.
Considering they were given no chance by most people you have got to give England a lot of credit and be proud of the team after they lost a really exciting game in Paris. Compared to New Zealand’s win over Argentina on Friday night at the same stadium, which was awful, this game blew the roof off.
With the squad Steve Borthwick picked originally they did all they could to get near to the South Africans and ended up going down on a scrum call.
It was a great game they could have won, or they could have lost, but that is professional sport and unfortunately England came out on the wrong side.
They needed to match the South Africans up front and the physicality was fantastic. Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes led that and the entire England side really got stuck into the Springboks from the first whistle.
Head coach Steve Borthwick comforts Ellis Genge and Freddie Steward of England at full-time
South Africa celebrated at full-time while England were heartbroken by the defeat
Maro Itoje of England looks dejected at full-time following full-time whistle in the semi-final
Alex Mitchell’s kicking in defence, and in attack with Jonny May and Elliot Daly chasing, also got South Africa on the back foot and was another major plus.
I tipped England to win by three points. I could not see Borthwick’s team beating France, or New Zealand, but I thought they could beat South Africa if they matched them physically and they did. But if you are brutally honest, England did not get near to scoring a try and that is what they have got to look. In the end South Africa scored the only try of the game.
England kicked some penalties, and Owen Farrell’s drop goal, to build the score nicely but scoring tries is the next level England have to take their game to.
Credit to South Africa and their coaching team. When Pollard came on, after just 31 minutes for fly-half Manie Libbok he played fantastically well. I wasn’t just his kicking at goal, and landing eight points with his boot, but his line kicking was amazing and that got the South Africans field position for the only try of the match.
He really contributed and that was a huge call from Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber and that is what sport at the highest level is all about. If you win the game, it is the right call and Pollard’s last kick to put South Africa in the lead was phenomenal.
One other step they need to take is get out of the siege mentality that has been apparent. We all want England to win but at the end of the day, they lost the game and they didn’t score a try. That was the difference.
England’s Jamie George was consoled by head coach Steve Borthwick
England were disappointed with the result, having pushed South Africa right until the end
Jonny May of England reacts during the final minutes after the full-time whistle
From one to 15, if England want to win World Cups they need more pace – they are not as fast as France or New Zealand – and as well as having the power to scrummage against these teams, once you have matched them in the physical stakes. You have got to be quick as well and I don’t think England are at the moment. That is a huge difference.
Now England have the bronze medal match against Argentina on Friday. It is not a must-win game so Borthwick can give guys who have not played much in the last few weeks in France.
The World Cup is about winning, it is not about third place play-offs.
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