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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Tom Bassam

England 19-17 Wales: Rugby World Cup warm-up international – as it happened

England's Freddie Steward tackles Wales' Josh Adams in the air and a penalty try is awarded to Wales on review
England's Freddie Steward tackles Wales' Josh Adams in the air and a penalty try is awarded to Wales on review Photograph: David Davies/PA

Is that the time? If so, my work is done here. Lucky for you, Robert Kitson’s report from Twickenham has dropped:

TimDad has some thoughts:

Calling Farrell’s tackle ‘Brainless, brainless stuff’ was an understatement. I’m sorry to say that he’s become a liability for England. He has to go.

Maybe it makes the selection easier: Lawes for captain. Ford to No 10. Marcus Smith as the surprise option.

Hard to disagree. Gatland said in the week that Marcus Smith would be a starter for Wales. It seems crazy to me that a team so devoid of creativity would ignore someone with his ability, but then again we’ve seen it time and time again when it comes to backfield mavericks playing for England.

George Ford speaks to Amazon: “I looked over at one stage and we had three guys sat in the sin bin. That’s a big win in terms of belief.

“You plan for everything, but three guys off and trailing on the scoreboard… to pull that off is unbelievable.”

On Farrell’s red card:

“We’ll get around [Farrell’s likely ban], whatever the situation, whatever the outcome is. He’s huge for us, he’s our captain.

“He plays the game on the edge, of course he does, but that’s why he’s our captain. It will all unfold in the next couple of days and all we’ve got to focus on is to keep getting better.

“Whoever gets the opportunity to play for England next week in Ireland will put their best foot forward and in the week after that, then going into the World Cup will be the same.”


I think we all need an optimistic email. Luckily Tom V D Gucht has written in:

I’ve got two optimistic theories regarding what’s going on with England. Firstly, I suspect they’re acutely aware that they peaked too soon at the last World Cup and so are keeping their powder dry until closer to the October 28th. Unfortunately, the downside to this strategy is they could get dumped out following the pool stages at this rate....

Theory number two focuses on them playing a form of rope-a-dope. They’ve taken a leaf out of Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ and are living by the quote: “Appear weak when you are strong...” in order to lull opponents into an undue sense of security.

Ben Earl is named man of the match, he was England’s best player.

He tells Amazon: “Test match rugby against a team like Wales won’t be pretty in first 60 minutes. The game will open at some point and unfortunately it did when we had 12 men, but we dug deep and got the win.”

Full-time: England 19-17 Wales

Somehow England have won it! Make no mistake, that was very poor and Farrell’s red could be a big issue. That was Wales’ second string. Wales really should have won it, Liam Williams did not deserve to be on the losing side, but they will rue poor consistent handling.

Elated: England's Maro Itoje celebrates at the final whistle.
Elated: England's Maro Itoje celebrates at the final whistle. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA


79 min: Sam Warburton on comms correctly points out what England have got right in the closing stages: scrum, high-ball and maul. Basic stuff, but it’s been enough to turn around a scrappy game.

Key event

77 min: Another Wales drop, scrum in midfield. This has barely been international standard rugby but at least it’s been entertaining. Somehow from being down to 12, England can pull this off.

Penalty converted and Wales down to 14! England 19-17 Wales (Ford 76)

That goes through and there’s another yellow card, this one for Adam Beard. Both sides will end the match with 14 on the field.

75 min: Marchant almost has a try and England work it from left to right and the Stade Francais man gets his hands on a cross kick. He doesn’t control the ball, but Ford will have a chance to kick a penalty.

73 min: The Twickenham crowd raise the volume as Liam Williams drops a kick to give England a scrum midway in the Wales half. Chance to sneak something?

Red card for Farrell!

The confirmation comes that the England’s captain card has been upgraded, the only silver lining is that the home side are back up to 14 on the field.

England's Owen Farrell is held back from Wales' Dan Biggar.
England's Owen Farrell is held back from Wales' Dan Biggar. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA


Try for England! England 16-17 Wales (Itoje 68)

Well, well, well. Where did that come from? The simplistic answer is a good restart, a lineout in Wales 22 and a decent catch and drive.

England's lock Maro Itoje scores.
England's lock Maro Itoje scores. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images


Try for Wales! England 9-17 Wales (Tomos Williams 65)

Bad to worse. Biggar sells a brilliant dummy in midfield and Tomos Williams exploits the acres of space left being England’s lack of discipline to run in from 35 out. Biggar converts.

Wales' Tomos Williams scores a try.
Wales' Tomos Williams scores a try. Photograph: David Davies/PA


Farrell sees yellow! (64 min)

That is appalling from England’s captain. Shoulder to head on Taine Basham and this could be upgraded to a red. Brainless, brainless stuff. Farrell’s left his team down to 12 and this could result in a ban that goes into the World Cup if he is cited.

Referee Nika Amashukeli awards a yellow card to Owen Farrell of England after a high tackle on Taine Basham.
Referee Nika Amashukeli awards a yellow card to Owen Farrell of England after a high tackle on Taine Basham. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images


63 min: Liam Williams has been the best player on the pitch. Wonderful footwork near his own line opens up the space and Wales almost make a telling break, but then they knock on.

62 min: Billy Vunipola goes off for Jack Willis.

Steward sees yellow, England down to 13 and penalty try to Wales! England 9-10 Wales

Williams adjudged not to have got the ball down but Steward’s infringement results in a yellow and a six-point penalty. England facing a challenging period, down to 13.

Try for Wales?

There is a lot going on here. Josh Adams is taken in the air by Freddie Steward from Biggar’s cross kick just yards out from the England line, but Liam Williams picks up the ball and goes over. Big TMO conference going on.

Yellow card for England! (Genge 58)

The referee runs out of patience with scrum and Genge is sent to the sideline.

58 min: Rinse and repeat on the handling errors. Now George Ford on. Shakeup in backs for England as the Sale man goes to fly-half.

57 min: Nothing interesting is happening. A couple more handling errors and drawn out scrum. Dan Cole is on.

54 min: Wales lose another lineout, Reffell comes back on and Ellis Genge makes his way on as a replacement.

53 min: Ollie Lawrence finds a gap and England finally put together a few phases in the Welsh 22. Then, predictably, they run out of ideas. Liam Williams turns it over.

51 min: Biggar’s first job after coming on for Owen Williams is to send a kick into touch after getting the better of a scrum. He fails, which sums this game up.

50 min: A few more Wales changes, Kemsley Mathias, Dillon Lewis, Christ Tshiunza and Dan Biggar are all on.

47 min: England pick off another Wales lineout, this one very deep in the visitors’ 22, but then hand over the advantage by playing the ball on the floor. Worryingly Plumtree looks to have hurt himself, he is carrying his arm. Taine Basham is the next man up.

Penalty converted! England 9-3 Wales (Owen Williams 45)

Through off the post. Wales are on the board.

Owen Williams of Wales kicks the penalty.
Owen Williams of Wales kicks the penalty. Photograph: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK/Shutterstock


44 min: Wales restart well and make some decent territory but knock on. England make a mess of the scrum and Wales will try to get on the board with a penalty.

Penalty converted! England 9-0 Wales (Farrell 41)

Farrell’s longest kick of the day is on the money.

Owen Farrell of England converts their kick after being awarded a penalty.
Owen Farrell of England converts their kick after being awarded a penalty. Photograph: Steve Bardens/RFU/The RFU Collection/Getty Images


Yellow card for Wales! (Tommy Reffell 41)

Looks harsh, but the card is out for persistent infringements more than anything.

Second half kicks off!

Farrell sends it deep and Arundell is back on. No other changes.

That is a damning stat, most phases of play in any attack in the first half was eight. It can only get better, right?

I’ve had three emails, one describes the on-field product as ‘soporific’, the next asks when England last scored a try and the other estimates we’ve had three minutes of action in that opening 40 minutes. Fair to say, that was pretty bad.

Half-time: England 6-0 Wales

A generous description would be solid from England, an accurate one would be a first half lacking in imagination. Snore fest.

Maro Itoje of England wins the lineout.
Maro Itoje of England wins the lineout. Photograph: Dan Mullan/RFU/The RFU Collection/Getty Images


Penalty converted! England 6-0 Wales (Farrell 40+2)

Easy from right infront of the posts.

40+1 min: England have an advantage for a tackle off the ball. Farrell opts to kick the penalty.

40 min: England go for the lineout, but can’t get a shove from the catch and drive. We’re into overtime.

39 min: England have a lineout deep in Wales’ 22. Can they fashion a chance? They have a penalty pending…

38 min: Courtney Lawes getting some treatment, looks like he took a good hit from Dan Lydiate.

36 min: The longer this half has gone, the worse it has got from England. Very little cohesion with ball in-hand, with the only bright sparks being how the scrum has held up and the performance of Earl.

34 min: Wales get a penalty deep in England’s 22 and kick for touch. The maul is rolling, but England stand firm as Earl once again dives in to grab the ball. If Borthwick can take one positive from the first half, it’s that England have done well with their backs to the wall. That said, this is very much an experimental Wales team.

33 min: More worrying injury news, England scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet is helped off. Ben Youngs comes on.

Yellow card! (Henry Arundell 32)

Well that is dumb. Liams Williams collects a kick in his 22 and calls a mark, takes a quick tap and Arundell tackles the Welshman without retreating. Silly boy, he’s in the bin.

29 min: I would say that is a tad harsh, England have been solid, if a little uninspiring. As I type that England chuck a forward pass when well-placed in the Wales half.

John Ryan emails in with a dose of optimism:

England’s best XV against an experimental Wales and [England] look worse than last week, and shocking generally. The lack of creativity and ambition as a result is pathetic for anyone who claims to be professional in this sport. Haven’t a hope in hell of winning the World Cup, and they’re on the side of the draw where if you don’t knock the ball on too much you’ll make the semi finals.

27 min: Dewi Lake getting a bit of treatment after a heavy hit from Ollie Lawrence. He might be going off here, not how he’d want his first Test as captain to end. The hooker looks very downbeat. Sam Parry is on.

25 min: Lake misses his second lineout of the game as the ball sails over the Wales jumpers. England clear out of play, Lake gets the next inbound on the money but Taine Plumtree puts the ball on the deck giving Farrell a chance to setup a lineout deep in Wales territory.

21 min: Another England scrum in midfield, which they work quickly and burst through the middle. Joe Roberts wins the foot race as the ball squirts in behind the Wales’ line after Nick Tompkins rips the ball from the grasp of the carrier. Very set-piece heavy this game so far, not much fluency.

18 min: First real moment of Wales pressure. As they work a lineout routine on their right wing inside the England 22. Good defensive work from the home side though, Wales are unable to recycle, England earn the scrum and then a free-kick which Farrell thumps upfield.

Key event

15 min: This England pack is well on top. They get a shove on the Wales scrum and Ben Earl almost scrambles a try, again it’s Liam Williams on the retreat behind his own line.

14 min: Lovely offload from Farrell creates a break for England as they get into Wales’ 22. The phase ends in a Wales scrum as the home side knock on.


13 min: The answer is… solid enough. England rumble forward and get the ball out to Daly, his kick is deep but Liam Williams is able to safely shepherd it for Wales.

Wales' Liam Williams wins the ball ahead of England's Henry Arundell.
Wales' Liam Williams wins the ball ahead of England's Henry Arundell. Photograph: David Davies/PA


12 min: Bit sloppy from Wales so far, they’re pinged for a knock on near halfway after scrappy defensive work from Ben Earl. How will England’s pack standup to their first put in at the scrum?

Penalty converted! England 3-0 Wales (Farrell 10)

No problems for the England fly-half.

Actor Idris Elba in the stands.
Actor Idris Elba in the stands. Photograph: David Davies/PA


8 min: England penalty incoming. Wales stray offside after an England line out around their opponent’s 22. Farrell lining it up.

6 min: Wales dart inside England territory as Liam Williams chucks a long pass left, it looks a little forward to me but England scramble and turn the ball over.

4 min: Chance for Arundell in the corner after Wales cough up Owen Farrell’s ‘spiral bomb’ kick downfield. Farrell gets hands on it and send a grubber into the corner from inside the Wales 22, Liam Williams is alert to stop Arundell grabbing an early try. Encouraging start.

3 min: Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli awards England the free-kick after Wales are adjudged to have gone early with the shove.

2 min: We have an early Wales scrum near halfway. Henry Arundell went up for a high ball and could only knock on. The Racing 92 man is a bit shaken up, but after a bit of treatment seems OK.

1 min: Wales get us underway.

Maybe it just doesn’t mean as much for a World Cup warmup. I counted one, maybe two, at best. I was certain Dewi Lake would go.

What is the over-under on Welshman crying during Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau? I’m going with four.

Right then, we are not long from kick-off. Teams out, anthems next and then we are underway.

England head coach Steve Borthwick knows the impact a Saracens core can have as seeks improvements on last week’s showing in Cardiff


Ronan O’Gara is not coaching either side today, but ICYMI here is his viral team talk that was doing the rounds this week

Dropped by Eddie Jones and at Worcester when they went under, Ollie Lawrence has made it into the England World Cup squad

The teams

England XV: Steward; Arundell, Marchant, Lawrence, Daly; Farrell (C), Van Poortvliet; Marler, George, Stuart, Itoje, Martin, Lawes, Earl, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Dan, Genge, Cole, Hill, Willis, Youngs, Ford, Malins.

Wales XV: L Williams; Adams, Roberts, Tompkins, Rogers; O Williams, T Williams; G Thomas, Lake (C), Francis, Beard, R Davies, Lydiate, Reffell, Plumtree.

Replacements: Parry, Mathias, Lewis, Tshiunza, Basham, Hardy, Biggar, K Williams.


After Steve Borthwick’s inexperienced side were defeated 20-9 in Cardiff, this week against Wales the head coach has gone back to the tried and tested. Billy Vunipola, returning from a knee injury, returns having not played since April and will need the game time given he’s the only No 8 in England’s World Cup squad.

All in all, there are 11 changes, with Vunipola one of five Saracens in the starting XV. Captain Owen Farrell is back, as is Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Ben Earl and Elliot Daly, with Borthwick naming a team much closer to the one that will line up against Argentina in Marseille. If those players provide experience, then at the other end of the scale is Henry Arundell, who makes his first Twickenham start after being named ahead of Henry Slade in the squad travelling to France.

It is chalk and cheese approach for Warren Gatland and his Wales XV. From a team of familiar faces in Cardiff, the visitors make 15 changes and will be captained by hooker Dewi Lake for the first time, as Jac Morgan drops out of the 23.

Taine Plumtree, at number eight, gets his first start, with prop Kemsley Mathias and centre Keiran Williams are set to make their international debuts off the bench.

The contrasting selection, of course, means the teams go in with different objectives. For England, a morale-boosting win is very much the order of the day. For Wales, this is a chance to try out some new faces.

Framed in that way, this feels bigger for Borthwick. By his own admission England are short in the set piece, defence and attack. There is talent, but so far it is not clicking. That needs to addressed quickly if England are to do anything next month in France.

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