Courtney Lawes insisted England are beginning to show their teeth in attack after they posted a bonus-point victory over Japan in their World Cup clash at the Stade de Nice.
England defied greasy conditions caused by the high humidity to emerge 34-12 winners, a messy and occasionally bewildering victory placing them in full control of Pool D.
A barrage of kicking in the first-half gave way to three tries being added when the match opened up, including Lawes’ comical try which he touched down after the ball had struck Joe Marler’s head.
Marler's magic mohawk 🤣
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“It was quite a lucky try but I’ll take them how they come. It was a good bit of luck for us and in these conditions, you take what you’re given,” Lawes said.
“I saw it ricochet off Joe’s head so I went to score the try just in case, but I was pretty sure that it had gone backwards and then come off his head. I had a good idea that it was going to be given.
“The conditions were tough. Even when you’ve got a good grasp of the ball you’d go into contact and you could feel it almost spinning out of your hands, sometimes even before you’ve made contact.
“It’s actually really challenging at the moment because it’s just so greasy. It’s hot and humid and you’re already really sweaty. It pretty much makes it like a wet weather game out there.
“We showed glimpses of how good our attack can be and we’ll continue to work on it.
“We’re getting better every day and that’s the main thing – that we’re taking steps forward.
“Come later on in the competition we’ll hope that we’re firing on all cylinders.”
England were booed by their own fans during the early stages of the second-half in response to the sheer volume of their kicking, which was eventually replaced by all out assault on the Japan line.
“The players did tremendously well,” said head coach Steve Borthwick, who revealed that Ben Earl suffered a dead leg.
“That was a really tough Test against a really well coached Japanese side who clearly came with a tactical plan and who play the game differently to anyone else in the world.”
Thank you for a great game – and for the gesture of respect after the match, @JRFURugby
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) September 17, 2023
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph admitted the Brave Blossoms paid the price for failing to show more ruthlessness in attack.
“We put them under a lot of pressure and we created opportunities but we didn’t take them because we made too many mistakes. That’s Test rugby,” Joseph said.
“England are an experienced Test side and over time they wore us down. That’s the nature of the game at the highest level.
“It’s disappointing for us because we put a lot of emotion into this week, but we’ll take the learnings from it.
“I was happy with the intensity but we just made too many mistakes when we were under the pump. The players are hurting but that’s footy.”