England claimed the top spot in Pool D with a convincing 34-12 victory over Japan at Stade de Nice on Sunday.
At halftime, England held a 13-9 lead, thanks to an early try by Lewis Ludlam and the precise kicking of George Ford, who was named the Mastercard Player of the Match.
Shortly after halftime, Japan’s fly-half Rikiya Matsuda added his fourth penalty to narrow the gap to just one point. However, England responded with a stroke of luck when Courtney Lawes scored their second try, with the ball taking a fortunate bounce off the head of prop Joe Marler.
Freddie Steward extended England’s lead by scoring in the corner after connecting with George Ford’s pinpoint cross-field kick. In the final moments of the game, Joe Marchant dived over for a bonus-point try, securing England’s second win in the Rugby World Cup 2023.
Reflecting on the win, Mastercard Player of the Match George Ford said, “We’re thrilled with another victory tonight. We knew it would be a challenging match against Japan. They’re a formidable team that poses unique challenges. We anticipated that we might pull away in the later stages of the game, and I’m ecstatic that we did. We made some improvements tonight and identified areas for further development.”
England’s captain, Courtney Lawes, acknowledged Japan’s resilience, stating, “Credit to Japan. We knew they would put up a fight, and they certainly did. The playing conditions weren’t as ideal as they appeared – it was quite slippery out there. Nevertheless, our team performed well, and we secured five valuable points. We couldn’t have asked for more.”
Regarding Joe Marler’s unconventional ‘assist,’ Lawes humorously commented, “I thanked him. It was a stroke of luck, but sometimes fortune favors the bold. I’ll gladly accept it.”
With two wins in as many games, England’s head coach, Steve Borthwick, expressed his satisfaction: “I’m extremely pleased for the players and the passionate supporters here tonight. Our traveling fans invest a lot to follow the team, and we aim to provide them with memorable nights. Tonight’s match was exceptionally tough, but we managed to secure a bonus point, which is a great achievement.”
Japan’s head coach, Jamie Joseph, shared his pride in his team’s performance, saying, “I’m genuinely proud of my team. We created numerous opportunities, but we made too many errors. England applied significant pressure, and although the first 16 minutes were a real battle, we couldn’t capitalize on those opportunities.”
Captain Kazuki Himeno added, “I believe we executed part of our game plan, but in the second half, we had some unfortunate moments that led to England’s scoring. We need to carry forward what we did well in terms of our game plan and address our second-half performance. Tough matches lie ahead, and we must work on improving that aspect.