Rugby World Cup 2023: England’s Jamie George – ‘we’ve got players who can do special things’

Jamie George believes England will build on their opening win over Argentina when they take on Japan and grow into the World Cup tournament; Maro Itoje warns Japan: “The goal is to enforce an English style of rugby on this game. It’s all about us imposing our will on them”

        Rugby World Cup 2023: England's Jamie George - 'we've got players who can do special things'

Jamie George explains why it’s important for him and the team to take a break from rugby and enjoy the French culture.

England advance to their second match of the Rugby World Cup against Japan on Sunday with new momentum after an opening win over Argentina.

In their next group stage fixture against Japan at the Stade de Nice, the England team hopes to lay down a marker for how they can progress through the competition.

“We’ve got players who can do special things,” said hooker Jamie George. “You’ve just seen the start of us so far in this tournament. We’re going to look to build and hopefully you will see plenty of different ways of us scoring points over the course of the tournament.

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        Rugby World Cup 2023: England's Jamie George - 'we've got players who can do special things'

Jamie George maintains that England can build on the way they’ve started at the World Cup

“For some of us this might be our last major tournament and we don’t want to have any regrets coming away from this.”

His side had been struggling ahead of the World Cup, their last warm up match for instance was a historic first loss to Fiji.

But a 27-10 victory over Argentina to open the tournament will have steadied nerves.

“We were hugely positive about the performance we put out there last weekend,” George said. “This eight-day turn around has allowed us a little bit more time to get the body right and then also a little bit more time to review and preview.”

His team will be expected to beat Japan, but George dismissed any risk of complacency.

        Rugby World Cup 2023: England's Jamie George - 'we've got players who can do special things'

England head coach Steve Borthwick explains why he decided to start Lewis Ludlam at eight over Billy Vunipola for their Rugby World Cup clash with Japan on Sunday.

“The performance last weekend was just the start. It’s just the foundation of what we’re going to try and build on if we want to win a World Cup, which is what we’re here to do. We know that we’re going to have to kick on from where we were,” he said.

“That’s been the main focus for us this week. I think there’s some huge threats coming out of the Japanese team. We’re aware they’re a very good side.”

With head coach Steve Borthwick, who has previously worked with Japan, they know their opposition well.

“You look at their record in World Cups they’ve been absolutely fantastic and a brilliant team to watch over the last eight years,” George said.

“We’re very aware of that. From what we’ve seen they’re a great side. You look at some of their games against tier one teams, they run a lot of them close and have had some great victories themselves. They’re a very well coached team, they’ve still got some great players.”

Second row forward Maro Itoje acknowledged the threat that Japan’s approach can pose.

        Rugby World Cup 2023: England's Jamie George - 'we've got players who can do special things'

Maro Itoje intends to impose England’s game on Japan

“It’s all about us imposing our will on them,” Itoje said. “Obviously they move the ball a lot more [than Argentina], and they are very impressive with how they play and the spirit and the energy they play with. That presents opportunities. It also presents challenges for us.

“The goal is to enforce an English style of rugby on this game. We want them to show their best hand and we want to defend it well. We want to impose our physicality. We want to get into our set piece game etc. and if the opportunity is right our generals will fire us in attack.”

England though didn’t score any tries in their last match, however Itoje maintained that victory was all that mattered.

“Every game is different and I think the task is to find ways to get on the positive side of the result,” he said.

“For me it’s by any means necessary. Obviously we want to score tries and score loads of tries. But for me it’s by any means necessary, as long as we get the win.”

The teams

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jonny May, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell; 1 Joe Marler, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Ollie Chessum, 6 Courtney Lawes (c), 7 Ben Earl, 8 Lewis Ludlam.

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 George Martin, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Ollie Lawrence.

Japan: 1 Keita Inagaki, 2 Shota Horie, 3 Jiwon Gu, 4 Jack Cornelsen, 5 Amato Fakatava, 6 Michael Leitch, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 8 Kazuki Himeno (c), 9 Yutaka Nagare, 10 Rikiya Matsuda, 11 Jone Naikabula, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 13 Tomoki Osada, 14 Kotaro Matsushima, 15 Semisi Masirewa.

Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Warner Dearns, 20 Kanji Shimokawa, 21 Naoto Saito, 22 Dylan Riley, 23 Lomano Lemeki.

Borthwick demands consistency from World Rugby

Steve Borthwick has accused World Rugby of taking an inconsistent approach to disciplinary issues as the England head coach continues to contend with suspensions for his squad members.

Tom Curry was sent off in the third minute of England’s World Cup victory over Argentina for a dangerous tackle and received a two-match ban, yet similar incidents involving South Africa’s Jesse Kriel and Martin Sigren of Chile failed to produce a dismissal, citing or suspension.

It has raised concerns in the England camp, and beyond, over the officiating of illegal challenges involving the head.

        Rugby World Cup 2023: England's Jamie George - 'we've got players who can do special things'

Kevin Sinfield says despite three red cards in four games, England do not have a discipline problem and there is too much ‘noise’ around the squad.

Borthwick also highlighted when Owen Farrell was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Wales and then cleared by a disciplinary hearing, World Rugby intervened by appealing against the decision.

“There has been a large amount of commentary from different sources about what appears to be a lack of consistency and transparency in the decision-making process,” Borthwick said.

“Now it’s not my role to comment on that, it’s World Rugby’s. I also note there was a tremendous amount of comment from World Rugby on Owen Farrell for a couple of weeks during our preparation for this tournament.

“I note there hasn’t been very many comments from World Rugby – I’m told – in the last week or so. I will leave that to World Rugby.”

‘A must-win game’

Former World Cup winner Matt Dawson knows the pressure is on England.

“It’s going to be tough – they played against Argentina with so much at stake for England, off a terrible run, low in confidence”, he told Sky Sports News.

“It is a must-win game for England to get themselves pretty much into those quarter-finals.”

He also vented frustration at the inconsistency with refereeing decisions on high tackles at the tournament so far.

France were fortunate to avoid a red card in Thursday’s win over Uruguay when a high challenge from lock Romain Taofifenua on Santiago Arata was deemed only to be a yellow card after a review in the bunker.

        Rugby World Cup 2023: England's Jamie George - 'we've got players who can do special things'

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson calls for more consistency from officials on dangerous tackle decisions after a number of incidents at the Rugby World Cup.

“There lies the main issue – the inconsistency”, said Dawson, reacting to Taofifenua’s tackle.

“It’s what the players require, it’s what the coaches, the fans, the game needs.

“In England vs Argentina, you had a letter-of-the-law red card for Tom Curry. I feel that he was a little bit unfortunate because of the scenario – it wouldn’t have been that long ago that it would have been a rugby incident. But, quite rightly, head on head is a red card.

“But then there have been two or three incidents where you do think there’s an opportunity to nip this in the bud around high tackles, head on head, shoulder on head, any kind of head contact.

“We talk about player welfare a lot within the game. This is the stage, this is the opportunity to absolutely nip this in the bud.”

Follow England’s Rugby World Cup match against Japan across Sky Sports’ digital platforms from 7.30pm, kick-off 8pm on Sunday.