Joe Marler has defended England’s style of play in the face of criticism despite their consecutive victories in France, drawing a parallel to how England won “ugly” at the 2003 World Cup. Steve Borthwick’s team secured a bonus-point win against Japan, moving closer to the quarter-finals, but faced boos from their own supporters for their direct playing style in Nice.
In the match, England kicked the ball 42 times, covering a combined distance of over a kilometer. While this approach proved effective with Alex Mitchell’s box-kicking and George Ford’s up-and-unders causing problems for Japan, it left many supporters who had spent a significant amount on tickets frustrated.
Olivier Magne, the former France flanker, was particularly critical, labeling the English team as “ugly” and lacking desire, joy, and consistency in a scathing social media post.
Stadium Sell Outs
Notably, the 36,000-seat stadium in Nice did not sell out, and although England secured the bonus point with late tries from Freddie Steward and Joe Marchant, their two earlier scores by Lewis Ludlam and Courtney Lawes had an element of luck.
However, Joe Marler emphasized that stylistic concerns matter little in World Cup tournaments. He cited the 2003 England team that won the title in Sydney and the South African team that defeated England in the 2019 final, defending the current approach.
Marler explained, “Why focus on finesse? The ultimate goal is to win, isn’t it? What did England do 20 years ago? They found a way to win the World Cup. We’ll keep learning from each game and striving to improve. While we’ll continue to refine our style, the primary objective is the victory.”
Ford echoed Marler’s sentiments, attributing England’s adherence to a direct gameplan to the humid conditions and the resulting slippery ball. It’s worth noting that in the second half, England adopted a more expansive approach, especially with Marcus Smith’s impactful contribution when he came on as full-back.