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Rugby World Cup result and reaction after ludicrous try off Joe Marler’s head

(Getty Images)

 (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

England toiled at times but profited from a bizarre second-half try to defeat Japan 34-12 at the Stade de Nice and earn a bonus point in an unimpressive display that nonetheless leaves them in control of their Rugby World Cup Pool D.

With the game poised at 13-12, England captain Courtney Lawes cantered in for a try as the Japanese players stopped and watched, expecting to hear the referee’s whistle for a knock-on when the ball in fact deflected off the head of prop Joe Marler.

That turned the tide of the contest as England ran in four tries in all, No 8 Lewis Ludlam barging over in the first half before full back Freddie Steward crossed in the corner and centre Joe Marchant grabbed the bonus point with the final play of the game.

Before that England’s attack looked blunt as they battled to hold onto the ball and kicked away possession from promising attacking areas, but were let off the hook by a Japan side that did not have the quality to punish them.

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England vs Japan updates

  • REPORT: Joe Marler uses his head to spare England’s blushes after error-strewn performance against Japan

  • Use your head! England score comical try against Japan at Rugby World Cup

  • FULL-TIME! England 34-12 Japan

  • TRY! England 34-12 Japan, (Marchant secures bonus-point victory, 80 mins)

  • TRY! England 27-12 Japan, (Pin-point Ford kick sets up Steward score, 66 mins)

  • TRY! England 20-12 Japan, (Lawes scores comical try off Marler’s head, 56 mins)

  • TRY! England 10-6 Japan, (Ludlam capitalises from lineout error, 25 mins)

Joe Marler uses his head to spare England’s blushes after error-strewn performance against Japan

22:20 , Ben Fleming

It was a try that rather summed it all up. For 56 minutes, England and Japan had stumbled about, frantic, flustered and fumbling in the Nice heat. An error-ridden contest hung in the balance – until Joe Marler used his head.

It was fortuitous in nature, as it felt like it had to be on a night like this. An errant pass, a flick of Will Stuart’s shoulder and a bounce off the bonce. Courtney Lawes collected the refuse and England salvaged the situation. Maro Itoje had promised they were prepared to win by any means necessary but few expected them to need to put an equally error-prone Japan away.

There was time enough for one moment of magic: England had kicked inaccurately all night but George Ford at last arrived at the jive, a delicate dab off his left boot landing in Freddie Steward’s huge hands in the corner. Coupled with Joe Marchant’s bonus-point-securing score, at last the travelling fans who earlier flooded the Promenade des Anglais could get out of their seats.

Read Harry Latham-Coyle’s full match report from the Stade de Nice below:

Joe Marler uses his head to spare England’s blushes on error-strewn night

Until next time

22:36 , Ben Fleming

England are back in action next Saturday as they face off against World Cup debutants Chile, while Japan have a bye week until they face Samoa in a must-win game on September 28.

That’s all for us today – thanks for tuning in!

Joe Marler speaking to ITV

22:27 , Ben Fleming

Fresh off his comical assist for England’s second try, the prop explains all. As with any Joe Marler interview, do take it with a pinch of salt!

FULL-TIME: England 34-12 Japan

22:25 , Ben Fleming

All smiles from England after that win:

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Japan coach Jamie Joseph speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live

22:23 , Ben Fleming

“I’m very proud of my team. We created a lot of opportunities, we just made too many mistakes. England put us under a lot of pressure but there were times I thought it was a real arm-wrestle, we just needed to capitalise on those opportunities and we couldn’t do it.

“The heart of the team is really sound, we’ve got great leadership here and there is a lot of experience in our team, but when you have those opportunities, you have to capitalise on them.”

England head coach, Steve Borthwick speaking to ITV

22:19 , Ben Fleming

“We had to work hard for the win. We knew we would get our rewards if we kept doing the right things and I’m delighted for the players and especially the supporters out there. What’s evident in the first two games of the tournament is what incredible support we have out here – travelling and following this team – and we want to make sure they enjoy it.

“We’ll have a debrief and analysis of the game but the first thing is for the payers to enjoy this win. We’ve got six days until we play against Chile and we’re looking forward to putting in a really good display in front of our supporters.”

England’s George Ford speaking to ITV

22:13 , Ben Fleming

“Obviously delighted with another win. Another tough game which we knew it was going to be. Japan are a great team; they challenge you in different ways, they’ve got an unbelievable attitude to never give in and it took until that third and fourth quarter for us to pull away a bit which we planned for in the week.

“Probably not the prettiest to watch but we had to build a game in a different way to get our points in the end but I thought it was good discipline by the boys.

“There was no frustration from our end. We understand what wins Test matches. I can understand what people might see on the TV or in the stands but we understand that building pressure is more important, especially in those conditions tonight. Sometimes if you force it too early you can make it a real tight game.

“They’ll be decisions we look back on that we could have done better but, overall, very happy with how we played. We are two from two, we’ve had two tough games in different ways. We are glad we backed last week up but there is some more in us.”

FULL-TIME: England 34-12 Japan

22:07 , Ben Fleming

With that win, England remain top of Pool D with nine points. Japan sit third on five points with Samoa also on five and just above them on points difference.

Argentina and Chile are both without a point so far.

FULL-TIME: England 34-12 Japan

22:04 , Ben Fleming

Here is a look at those three second-half tries from England including that comical score courtesy of Joe Marler’s head:

Freddie Steward touched down after Ford’s perfect cross-field kick:

And Marchant added the bonus point late on with his score:

FULL-TIME: England 34-12 Japan

22:00 , Ben Fleming

England huffed and puffed for much of that game but, in the end, they run out comfortable winners against Japan after a late flurry of tries. At one point in the second half, England’s lead was just one but tries from Lawes, Steward and Marchant secured a much-needed bonus-point victory for Borthwick’s side who are now in a very comfortable position in Pool D.

TRY! England 34-12 Japan, (Marchant, 80 mins)

21:57 , Ben Fleming

England do find the bonus try as Marchant goes over in the final minute! It’s an almighty shove from the maul as England finally let their backs run free. Smith makes a good burst which nearly allows May to go over

The ball is eventually switched back to the left, with Marchant able to tap down and secure the crucial fourth tie. Ford adds the conversion and, with that, the whistle goes.

England 27-12 Japan, 78 mins

21:53 , Ben Fleming

The game’s intensity starting to slow down as Japan know their race is run. England will surely still be eyeing up another try in the final few minutes in order to secure the bonus-point victory.

An opportunity from a scrum now…

Use your head! England score comical try against Japan at Rugby World Cup

21:51 , Ben Fleming

In case you missed it, England scored one of the most comical tries in Rugby World Cup history during their match against Japan as Joe Marler unknowingly claimed an assist with his head.

During the second half of the Pool D clash in Nice, with England narrowly leading 13-12, they received a huge stroke of fortune when George Ford’s pass went backwards off the hands of Will Stuart, clattered off the head of the unwitting Marler and Courtney Lawes almost embarrassedly scooped the ball up to score the try.

Use your head! England score comical try against Japan at Rugby World Cup

England 27-12 Japan, 74 mins

21:49 , Ben Fleming

It’s taken 70 minutes but England beginning to really click into gear. Some lovely, free-flowing rugby down the right side through the subs Lawrence and Smith.

They are just inches from the line on numerous occasions but the pick-and-go game can’t get England their fourth try and they eventually give up a penalty at the breakdown.

England 27-12 Japan, 70 mins

21:44 , Ben Fleming

A couple of late changes for England as Tuilagi and try-scorer Steward make way for Lawrence and Smith, the latter slotting in at full-back.

England 27-12 Japan

21:42 , Ben Fleming

The Independent’s Harry Latham-Coyle at the Stade de Nice:

“A lovely bit of skill from George Ford off his wrong foot, spotting the space and putting it in Freddie Steward’s breadbasket. How England needed that after a performance of missed connections.”

TRY! England 27-12 Japan, (Steward, 66 mins)

21:41 , Ben Fleming

And capitalise they do! The ball makes its way out to Ford and it’s an inch-perfect cross-field kick from the fly-half to find Steward open on the left wing.

The full-back makes no mistake and England stretch their lead further.

Ford adds the conversion for the extra two.

England 20-12 Japan, 65 mins

21:38 , Ben Fleming

Much better from England. Pressure from the scrum and intensity with the defensive line as they force Japan over their own tryline and earn themselves a scrum on the five-metre line.

Can they capitalise now?

England 20-12 Japan, 63 mins

21:36 , Ben Fleming

A few substitutes as England begin to show some incisiveness in attack. Marchant gets on the ball more, Genge makes a good break and then Ford surges through.

The pick and go is spilt just metres from the line by England but it’s far more encouraging from Borthwick’s side in the last few moments.

Scrum Japan.

England 20-12 Japan, 58 mins

21:30 , Ben Fleming

A stunning burst from Matsushima gets Japan right up the pitch. England are all over the place, scrambling in defence to try and quell wave after wave of Japanese pressure.

But it’s knocked on! England’s handling errors have rubbed off on Japan as they spill the ball forward at just the wrong time. A big let off for England and time for some drinks.

TRY! England 20-12 Japan, (Lawes, 56 mins)

21:25 , Luke Baker

What a slice of fortune for England! Earl makes the big burst up the pitch on the right side and, from there, England come infield. Then, Stuart’s pass – looking for Marler – bounces off the prop’s head and over the Japan defence.

The Brave Blossoms stall assuming the ball was knocked on but Lawes plays on and taps down the try. Replays confirm it did cannon off Marler’s head and England have a vital – if not extremely fortunate – seven points to put some daylight between themselves and Japan.

PENALTY! England 13-12 Japan, (Matsuda, 54 mins)

21:21 , Ben Fleming

After a solid start to the half, a sloppy error again opens the door for Japan. Chessum doesn’t roll away quickly enough having made the tackle and Matsuda makes no mistake with the penalty.

The first points of the second half and England’s lead is now just one.

England 13-9 Japan, 52 mins

21:19 , Ben Fleming

Another knock on from England gifts Japan a penalty in a good position inside England’s half. Before that happens there’s a double change for England.

Stuart comes on for Sinckler in the front row and there’s a first appearance in this year’s World Cup for Billy Vunipola as he replaces try scorer Ludlam.

England 13-9 Japan, 50 mins

21:16 , Ben Fleming

England, slowly but surely, look to be exerting more control over the game. But, they turn to the kick yet again and give away possession. Some boos ring around from the crowd – they certainly didn’t approve of that decision.

A change in the front row for Japan as Millar comes on for Inagaki. Riley also comes on for Naikabula on the wing.

England 13-9 Japan, 45 mins

21:11 , Ben Fleming

It’s an audacious backwards kick over his head from Nagare but they can’t gather the ball cleanly. England again do well to make territory up the pitch with some clever kicking off their own but again the play breaks down after some poor handling a few phases into the attack.

I’m sounding like a broken record at this point.

England 13-9 Japan, 42 mins

21:09 , Ben Fleming

A bright start from England as they move forward into the Japan 22 after a great low kick from Ford. From there, however, it’s a series of poor decisions which ultimately culminate in a Japan penalty and a chance for the Brave Blossoms to clear their lines.

KICK-OFF! England 13-9 Japan, 41 mins

21:06 , Ben Fleming

Japan kick off and we are back underway in this crucial second half. England lead, but only just…

Daly makes a promising early burst down the left but he’s bundled into touch by Fakatava.

HALF-TIME: England 13-9 Japan

20:58 , Ben Fleming

Just the one try – England’s first of the tournament – in that half as Ludlam powered over after a terrible mistake from a Japanese set piece:

HALF-TIME: England 13-9 Japan

20:57 , Ben Fleming

The half-time verdict from The Independent’s Harry Latham-Coyle at the Stade de Nice:

“Yikes. It’s been a sloppy Sunday night so far in Nice, with England all over the place and Japan, after a bright first half hour, making their fair share of errors, too, to give Steve Borthwick’s side the lead.

“A few uncomfortable looks at one another as the England players made their way off – after what felt like a turning point performance last week, this has been a huge drop down in quality and cohesion. Joe Marler was having an animated discussion with referee Nika Amashukeli as he exited.

“With the rest of their game not working, you do wonder if England will try to go to their scrum and lineout to win territory – but the errors on set-up have prevented them doing even that so far.”

HALF-TIME: England 13-9 Japan

20:56 , Ben Fleming

Some pictures from a frenetic first half:

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HALF-TIME: England 13-9 Japan

20:53 , Ben Fleming

With that penalty, the whistle goes for half-time. A scrappy, error-filled first 40 minutes from both sides but it’s England who have the slender lead thanks to Ludlam’s try and Ford’s two penalties.

Japan have been threatening but failed to capitalise on good positions on a couple of occasions in that first half.

This game is certainly still in the balance. Plenty to play for after the break…

PENALTY! England 13-9 Japan,(Ford, 40 mins)

20:51 , Ben Fleming

A questionable decision from Japan who kick who kick the ball out and gift England back the ball with just 20 seconds left in the half.

From there, England retrieve the lineout and then win a penalty as Matsuda strays offside. A late chance for an extra three points…and this time Ford makes no mistake.

A gift of a three points for England.

England 10-9 Japan, 39 mins

20:48 , Ben Fleming

More handling errors as England look to kick once again. They are brought back for an earlier penalty and go for the corner in the final moments.

But just like that, another dropped ball. Ludlam was charging around the back of the maul to receive the pass from Earl, but the Saracens flanker instead fires it at his club teammate George who can’t react in time and knocks the ball on.

A wasted opportunity for England on the stroke of half-time.

England 10-9 Japan

20:46 , Ben Fleming

The Independent’s Harry Latham-Coyle reporting from the Stade de Nice as we approach half-time:

“A couple of injury worries for England, with Kyle Sinckler down receiving treatment and Freddie Steward having to take a painkiller while appearing to be battling a leg injury. Improbably, Steve Borthwick’s side do lead this game but little has gone right so far.”

England 10-9 Japan, 36 mins

20:44 , Ben Fleming

The latest example of the humidity here in Nice as Steward is the latest to knock the ball on. Scrum to Japan after the second drinks break of the half.

PENALTY! England 10-9 Japan, (Matsuda, 32 mins)

20:40 , Ben Fleming

A real error-strewn contest from both sides so far. England’s May is the latest to make a mistake, with his late tackle gifting Japan the chance to cut their deficit to one.

Matsuda steps up and does just that.

PENALTY MISSED! England 10-6 Japan, 30 mins

20:38 , Ben Fleming

England have another chance to put daylight between themselves and the Brave Blossoms after an infrigement from Japan at the breakdown.

It’s a longer-range effort than his first and the fly-half pushes his effort wide of the right post.

TRY! England 10-6 Japan, (Ludlam, 25 mins)

20:34 , Ben Fleming

Well after a sloppy passage of play, England benefit from a Japanese error from a lineout right after the restart and are gifted possession in the 22.

From there, they make no mistake and it’s Ludlam who powers over from close range to score England’s first try of the tournament and edge them back ahead!

Ford adds the extra points with the conversion.

England 3-6 Japan

20:32 , Ben Fleming

The Independent’s Harry Latham-Coyle from the Stade de Nice:

“This has turned into the sloppiest of starts from England, so many basic errors in virtually every facet of their game. Another clean strike from Rikiya Matsuda and Japan are, deservedly, in front”

PENALTY England 3-6 Japan, (Matsuda, 23 mins)

20:31 , Ben Fleming

Another close shave for England as a kick over the top is so nearly gathered cleanly by Matsushima.

The ball is just knocked on by the winger but Japan leave the England 22 with some reward as Matsuda knocks over his second penalty after Earl was offside at the breakdown.

England 3-3 Japan, 19 mins

20:26 , Ben Fleming

Not for the first time this tournament, the turf gives way as both sides engage at the scrum. England have the ball out but Ford’s kick is charged down!

Mitchell does superbly to gather to loose ball and England clear their lines. A lucky escape.

England 3-3 Japan, 15 mins

20:22 , Ben Fleming

The thoughts of The Independent’s Harry Latham-Coyle as Japan pull level:

“That interminable maul threw off all of the timing of England’s attempts to get both their centres crashing at the line, allowing Japan to counter with speed. Yutaka Nagare’s ruck service has been excellent so far – Japan deservedly level.”

PENALTY! England 3-3 Japan, (Matsuda, 13 mins)

20:19 , Ben Fleming

England try to get Tuilagi into the came but the move goes awry and Japan can break. And break they do, impressively, all the way up the pitch to within just three metres of the line.

With the penalty advantage, Matusda looks for Naikabula with the cross-field kick but it’s just too much and it goes out of play. Back for the penalty…

The Japan fly-half slots it over and this game is level once again.

England 3-0 Japan, 10 mins

20:16 , Ben Fleming

Up the pitch England go from the penalty, but a free-flowing move eventually ends up in touch again after Elliot Daly can’t keep hold of the ball coming his way. A frenetic, end-to-end start to this fixture so far.

England 3-0 Japan, 9 mins

20:15 , Ben Fleming

England get themselves in a spot of bother as Daly gets tackled into touch inside their 22. But from the lineout, it’s superb work from England and Joe Marler, in particular,

The prop gets into the ruck quickly and wins England a huge penalty on their tryline.

England 3-0 Japan, 7 mins

20:13 , Ben Fleming

A match to forget for full-back Masirewa. After knocking on the ball in the first minute, the Japanese player picks up an injury and is unable to continue. Lemeki on in his place

England 3-0 Japan, 5 mins

20:08 , Ben Fleming

An ideal start from England as The Independent’s Harry Latham-Coyle sends this in:

“A horror start from Semisi Masirewa, ambling back over his own line and careless in picking it up. His spill leads to the simplest of starters from the tee for George Ford. Intriguingly, Ben Earl was stationed at number eight for England’s first scrum – the back rower is wearing the number seven shirt but offers slightly more speed off the base than Lewis Ludlam. I’d expect them to swap when Japan have scrum feed.”

PENALTY! England 3-0 Japan (Ford, 4 mins)

20:07 , Ben Fleming

Ford slots it over from right in front of the posts and it’s the perfect start for England.

England 0-0 Japan, 3 min

20:06 , Ben Fleming

Some thunderous contacts out of the scrum as England look to get over the line. Japan holds firm for now and after a knock on, the referee come back for a penalty.

England opting for the early points.

KICK-OFF! England 0-0 Japan, 1 min

20:03 , Ben Fleming

Anthems sung, pleasantries exchanged as England get us underway in the first half!

And it’s an early sloppy mistake from Japan as Masirewa knocks on a kick on his tryline. A scrum on the five-metre line for England.

Kick-off moments away

19:59 , Ben Fleming

The players are out of the tunnel and onto the grass in Nice. Time for the anthems…

Harry Latham-Coyle at the Stade de Nice

19:55 , Ben Fleming

The Independent’s Harry Latham-Coyle is in Nice for tonight’s big fixture. He sends this in ahead of kick-off:

“A pretty energetic warm-up from England, with an active scrummaging session and a bit of goalline defensive work. There were fittingly floods of England fans on the Promenade des Anglais earlier – and judging by the roars for each member of England’s line-up as they announced on the public address system, most have made it in.”

Brilliant Fiji blow Rugby World Cup wide open with first win over Australia for 69 years

19:50 , Ben Fleming

Earlier in the day, Fiji made a huge statement at the Rugby World Cup with their first win over Australia for 69 years, a thoroughly deserved 22-15 victory that blew Pool C wide open and left the twice world champion Wallabies shellshocked.

Denied a likely victory over Wales in their opener by a dropped pass, Fiji overpowered the Australians with direct running, explosive tackling and 11 turnovers.

Barring those in green and gold, a packed house at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard cheered each Fiji attack and every single one of the 18 penalties awarded against the Australians.

A try from centre Josua Tuisova and five penalties did the damage on the scoreboard and the Fijians backed their steely defence to keep the desperate Wallabies out in a dramatic last 10 minutes.

Ahead of England vs Japan, read all about Fiji’s historic victory below:

Brilliant Fiji blow World Cup wide open with first win over Australia for 69 years

England have their smile back – but Japan could pose a problem in tonight’s Rugby World Cup clash

19:45 , Ben Fleming

On Friday night, soon after naming his England side to take on Japan, it was put to Steve Borthwick that it looked the smile had been back on his face since a reinvigorating win against Argentina. Borthwick can be a phlegmatic figure, sensible and sober, but even he has worn a grin at times this week. “I think I smile a lot,” Borthwick chuckled, but soon enough it was back to the job at hand. “Every day, we try to get better. Our focus is playing Japan on Sunday night and we can’t wait for that game.”

What a difference a win makes. Nice has been a favourite destination for the English since the late 18th century and this latest band of travellers settling in on this pretty patch of coastline are enjoying their French adventure so far. England, clearly, are still behind the top sides in the world, but it is with a spring in their step that they look to try and take another stride forward against Japan this weekend.

If there was a sense that some of the players’ faith in their strategy may have been waning after the warm-up woes, all are now back on board and ready for more. “They can’t wait to get out there on the big occasion again,” Borthwick said of his players ahead of their second Pool D fixture. “The party started on Friday night in Paris last week, and we’ve got a couple more players who want to join the party this week. This team wants to be in the thick of it and we’re looking forward to this game on Sunday night.”

Read Harry Latham-Coyle’s full preview from Nice ahead of kick-off:

England have their smile back – but Japan could pose a problem

England vs Japan starling lineups

19:40 , Ben Fleming

We are fast approaching kick-off here in Nice. A final reminder of how both sides will line up:

England XV: 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.

Japan XV: 15-Semisi Masirewa, 14-Kotaro Matsushima, 13-Tomoko Osada, 12-Ryoto Nakamura, 11-Jone Naikabula, 10-Rikiya Matsuda, 9-Yutaka Nagare; 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).

England vs Japan talking points

19:35 , Ben Fleming

Tika Taka Japan

Defence coach Sinfield has compared Japan’s tactics to the ‘Tika Taka’ football played by Barcelona and England are on guard for dynamic opponents who like to move the ball and look for space over contact.

They are not the force of four years ago when they lit up their home World Cup through enterprise and courage, but they have the capacity to upset the favourites if they hit their stride.

England’s Steve Borthwick speaks to ITV

19:30 , Ben Fleming

Here’s what the England head coach had to say ahead of kick-off:

England vs Japan talking points

19:20 , Luke Baker

Ford’s final audition

A fudge beckons when Borthwick is confronted with one of the toughest selection decisions of his young reign. George Ford was outstanding against Argentina and is in the form of his life, but with Owen Farrell completing a four-match suspension against Japan the long-term friends are battling for the same number 10 jersey.

Borthwick will reveal his thinking in the final group fixture against Samoa on October 7 when he is expected to reunite the duo in a playmaking axis that served England well in 2019, but before then Ford has one last opportunity to show why he should be entrusted to pilot the team by himself.

England vs Japan talking points

19:10 , Luke Baker

Sinckler ready to roll

A big moment looms for Kyle Sinckler, who will be making his first World Cup appearance since he was knocked out in the final against South Africa four years ago.

Sinckler was in the form of his career in Japan, his scrummaging, ball handling skills and rampaging runs elevating him into the sport’s elite band of tighthead props. The 30-year-old has failed to rescale those heights since and now that he has recovered from a chest injury to take his place in the front row, he will be determined to invoke his 2019 form.

England vs Japan

19:08 , Harry Latham-Coyle at the Stade de Nice

Hello from a hot and humid Stade de Nice, where England’s players have just started their warm-ups, George Ford and Marcus Smith punting to one another as they acquaint themselves with the pitch. This was the scene of one of English football’s great disappointments, the exit to Iceland in the 2016 Euros – there were a few fans discussing exactly that non the tram over from the city earlier.

Given Japan’s lack of form this year, you’d say a defeat tonight for England would come as a bit of a surprise, though Jamie Joseph’s men still have oodles of quality in their 23. Portugal lit up this ground last night with their vibrant attacking game – can Japan do likewise?

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England vs Japan talking points

19:00 , Luke Baker

Sharpen the attack

England delivered a defensive masterclass to nullify clueless Argentina but there was no masking their attacking deficiencies. The most glaring moment was the butchering of a clear overlap that the same players would finish with ease for their clubs.

If England are to advance deeper into the World Cup they must show they have the capacity to score tries as drop goals and penalties alone will not be sufficient to see off the big guns.

England vs Japan talking points

18:50 , Luke Baker

No more cards

England have amassed more cards this year than any team ranked in the top 10, accumulating five yellows and four reds. It is a debilitating statistic and while Steve Borthwick and Kevin Sinfield are adamant that the team do not have a discipline problem, they know they can not keep playing with 14 men – or even less.

The officiating of incidents involving head contact and their subsequent disciplinary hearings during this World Cup have been plagued by inconsistency, making avoiding dangerous play more important than ever.

Maro Itoje will take England victories at the World Cup ‘by any means necessary’

18:40 , Luke Baker

Maro Itoje insists England will do whatever it takes to win if a substance over style approach emerges as their blueprint for success at the World Cup.

George Ford kicked all 27 points in their rout of Argentina last Saturday as England responded to the third-minute dismissal of Tom Curry for a dangerous tackle by grinding the Pumas into submission.

It was a rousing riposte to a dismal warm-up campaign but having excelled in defence and shown the smarts to shape their gameplan according to events, a potent attack remains elusive.

Free running Japan are the next assignment at the Stade de Nice on Sunday and while Itoje would prefer to see England run riot, he will take a victory any way it comes.

When asked if it matters how the team win, Itoje said: “For me, it’s by any means necessary.”

Maro Itoje will take England victories at the World Cup ‘by any means necessary’

Lewis Ludlam replaces suspended Tom Curry as England make minimal changes for Japan

18:25 , Luke Baker

Lewis Ludlam replaces the suspended Tom Curry in the back row with Steve Borthwick making minimal changes for England‘s second Rugby World Cup fixture against Japan.

After a much-needed win over Argentina in Marseille, England head to Nice full of confidence.

There is a return for Kyle Sinckler at tighthead, with the prop absent last week having not quite been 100 percent after injury, while Joe Marler is promoted to start ahead of Ellis Genge.

The backline remains intact from the 27-10 win against Los Pumas.

Lewis Ludlam replaces suspended Tom Curry as England make minimal changes for Japan

Steve Borthwick questions World Rugby’s silence on red card inconsistency

18:10 , Luke Baker

England head coach Steve Borthwick has appeared to question what he perceives as a silence from World Rugby during the ongoing debate over head contacts and consistency in officiating.

The opening weekend of the Rugby World Cup was in part overshadowed by a series of contentious incidents, with Tom Curry shown a red card after making head-to-head contact with Argentina’s Juan Cruz Mallia in the opening minutes of England’s Pool D opener.

A similar challenge from Chile captain Martin Sigren resulted in a yellow card, while Jesse Kriel’s tackle on Jack Dempsey was not reviewed live and the South African centre was subsequently cleared by the citing commissioner.

That has led to a renewed discussion on how high tackles are being managed by the officials, with a number of prominent pundits and ex-players questioning the “consistency”.

Steve Borthwick appears to question World Rugby’s silence on red card inconsistency

George Ford hopes drop-goal work with Jonny Wilkinson can be a World Cup weapon

17:55 , Luke Baker

George Ford has been working with Jonny Wilkinson to turn the drop-goal into a weapon at the World Cup.

Ford landed three as England opened the tournament with a 27-10 rout of Argentina in Marseille last Saturday and is ready to continue using them if the opportunity arises.

To assist with the tactic, the Sale fly-half has been perfecting his technique with Wilkinson, who famously landed the drop-goal that enabled England to lift the World Cup in 2003.

“Jonny’s big thing is don’t worry about the posts,” said Ford, who continues in the number 10 jersey for Sunday’s showdown with Japan in Nice.

“Obviously you need to know where they are, but the only thing you can control is what you do in terms of how you place the ball and what you do with your body.”

George Ford hopes drop-goal work with Jonny Wilkinson can be a World Cup weapon

England vs Japan referee: Who is Rugby World Cup official Nika Amashukeli?

17:25 , Luke Baker

Georgia’s Nika Amashukeli will make history as one of the officials at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

The 28-year-old makes his tournament debut and is the first referee from Georgia to officiate at the event.

He is the youngest whistler since Wayne Barnes in 2007 to be appointed to a men’s World Cup panel.

Amashukeli represented Georgia at junior level as a centre, but was forced to retire at the age of 20 after a series of concussions and other injuries.

He was recruited as a referee as part of a new programme to improve officiating standards in the country, developed in partnership with the Irish Rugby Football Union.

England vs Japan referee: Who is Rugby World Cup official Nika Amashukeli?

Japan team news

17:10 , Luke Baker

The Brave Blossoms make six changes from the win against Chile last Sunday. Dylan Riley is replaced by Tomoko Osada as head coach Joseph opts to make four changes in the pack. Shota Horiei is preferred to Atsushi Sakate at hooker, while Jack Cornelson moves from the back row into the second row to replace Amanaki Saumaki.

Captain Kazuki Himeno has recovered from a leg injury that saw him miss his side’s opener against Chile, with the 29-year-old returning at No 8. He is joined in the back row by Pieter Labuschagne, who returns from a suspension to replace Kanji Shimokawa at flanker.

Japan XV: 15-Semisi Masirewa, 14-Kotaro Matsushima, 13-Tomoko Osada, 12-Ryoto Nakamura, 11-Jone Naikabula, 10-Rikiya Matsuda, 9-Yutaka Nagare; 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).

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

England team news

16:55 , Luke Baker

Lewis Ludlam comes in to replace the suspended Tom Curry as England make minimal changes from the team that beat Argentina. Ludlam comes in at No 8 with Ben Eal shuffling across to flanker.

Elsewhere, there are two changes in the front row as Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler come in to replace Dan Cole and Ellis Genge. Billy Vunipola is available again after serving his suspension and sits amongst the replacements.

England XV: 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.

When is England vs Japan and how can I watch it?

16:40 , Luke Baker

When is England vs Japan?

England vs Japan is due to kick off at 8pm BST on Sunday 17 September at the Stade de Nice.

How can I watch it?

Viewers in the United Kingdom can watch the match live on ITV1, with coverage on the channel from 7:15pm BST. Registered users can also stream the action via ITVX.

Is England vs Japan on TV? Channel, start time and how to watch Rugby World Cup

16:28 , Luke Baker

England will look to build on their encouraging opening weekend win in the Rugby World Cup as they take on Japan.

Steve Borthwick’s side responded superbly after losing Tom Curry to an early red card as George Ford’s kicking masterclass saw them impressively eke out a 27-10 victory over Argentina in Marseille. Victory here against Japan would see England take a huge step towards securing a spot in the tournament’s knockout stages.

Japan, however, will provide a stern test having picked up a comprehensive 42-12 victory against Chile last weekend, with Jamie Joseph’s side looking to pull off an upset to put them in a fantastic position heading into the final few rounds of the group stages.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Is England vs Japan on TV? Channel, start time and how to watch Rugby World Cup

England vs Japan

16:27 , Luke Baker

Welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of England vs Japan. Stick with us for all the action from a crunch match at the Rugby World Cup.

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