Take Six: England into quarters, France look to join them

England became the first team to clinch a place in the quarter-finals as they overwhelmed Argentina in Tokyo.

England became the first team to clinch a place in the quarter-finals as they overwhelmed Argentina in Tokyo.

Elsewhere France will be looking to join them on Sunday, while Sam Johnson and Scotland are looking ahead to their crucial clash with Russia.

After bonus-point successes against Tonga and USA, England knew that they would face a much stiffer challenge against Argentina, with the reward for a win a place in the quarter-finals.

Their task was made easier by Tomas Lavanini’s early red card, and in the end England romped home to a 39-10 success.

That secured their passage to the last eight, with the chance to clinch top spot in their final pool game against France.

Jonny May had opened the scoring for Eddie Jones’ side after good work from George Ford to open up some space.

Lavanini then saw red for a high tackle on Owen Farrell before Elliot Daly went over four minutes from the break.

Argentina did everything they could to slow England down, but on the stroke of half-time Ben Youngs crossed and from there England were able to control the game.

Ford added the bonus-point score five minutes into the second half, with Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie adding further scores to add some gloss to the scoreline late on.

England’s victory secures them a place in the quarter-finals, but for Eddie Jones the focus is on the final pool game against France.

If Les Bleus beat Tonga on Sunday, that game next weekend will decide top spot in the pool.

And while Jones’ team have now won three in a row, all with a bonus point, he is expecting another tough challenge from France.

He said: “We are just worried about France next week. It is qualification for the quarter-finals but the emphasis is on getting better each game.

“That was a tough game for us today and when they went down to 14 men they possible get a psychological lift and it is only human nature that we drop off a bit because you think you are going to win the game and we probably did that.

“When you get 15 on 14 the seduction is to want to play a lot of phase rugby and we probably did that in the first half, and in the second half we got back to good solid rugby and won the game in fashion. The competition is only going to get tougher and we have to be relentless chasing areas we can get better in.”

Maxime Médard finds himself in a unique position as the one survivor from France’s defeat to Tonga at the 2011 World Cup.

That defeat, in the final pool stage match for the French, was not enough to prevent them reaching the knockout stages, and eventually reaching the final.

However, as the two teams prepare to meet again on the same stage, Médard is well aware of the challenge that faces Les Bleus.

And while he knows exactly what it feels like to lose to Tonga at a World Cup, the France full-back insists these are two very different sides.

He said: “I was expecting that question (about 2011). It’s a difficult memory. But that defeat allowed us to reach the final. We came up against a rugged team, who were difficult to play and who played the perfect game to get the win. We were lucky to get out of our pool. In the final, that match helped us out.

“For me, 2011 is history. I don’t want to talk about that match. It was another team, another different kind of rugby.

“We’re quite a young team. We are carefree. I don’t want to talk about that match – I would rather make positive statements and go forwards than go back to that match.

“I’m more composed than I was 10 years ago. I see rugby differently, I’m less nervous about matches, I have fulfilled my potential. I’ve had an exceptional year with my club, which allowed me to get back to my best, and to rediscover the joy of playing, and the France team. I take whatever comes with a smile.”

Ireland might not have yet hit their best form but the feeling in the camp is positive ahead of a decisive clash with Samoa.

A bonus-point success would guarantee a place in the quarter-finals, while Ireland could even sneak top spot if Japan lose to Scotland.

And for Jacob Stockdale, appearing in his first World Cup, the response to defeat to Japan in the second pool game has shown how desperate the team is for redemption.

He said: “I think the mood has largely been pretty positive. Obviously, it was a pretty disappointing result against Japan and the days after that were tough. But you have to accept the reality of where you are and all we can do now is to try and do our job to make sure that we secure qualification in the pool.

“But yeah, the mood’s been largely very good. After the Japan performance, guys wanted to right a few wrongs and we trained really hard.

“I’ve experienced a few losses in an Ireland shirt and they don’t get any easier. It was incredibly disappointing. You don’t expect to be feeling that way after your second Rugby World Cup game, or I didn’t anyway.

“The next day you feel sorry for yourself and you lick your wounds, but the day after you have to start training again. You can’t be lying about moping – you have to get on with it. It was a tough couple of days but I always find it’s easier once training starts again. It gives you something to focus on and motivate yourself and put all the rest behind you.”

Japan’s bonus-point success over Samoa leaves Scotland with less margin for error when it comes to their hopes of making the quarter-finals.

Gregor Townsend’s team now need to take at least nine points from their remaining two games, starting with Wednesday’s clash with Russia.

And while a bonus-point success in Shizuoka would make their clash against Japan much easier, centre Sam Johnson insists the team cannot set out their stall by chasing the bonus point from kick-off.

He said: “We know we can’t go out there and just throw the ball around and think we’re going to score four tries in the first 20 minutes. Greig Laidlaw has been saying all week that we need to construct these games of rugby.

“Russia have improved with each game and we treat them with respect. It’s probably a game we should be winning, but that doesn’t mean we go out there and throw the ball around and expect to win.

“We need to show them the intensity and respect we showed to Samoa and construct a game of rugby. If it takes 75 minutes to get that bonus point then we’ll take it.”

If there is one man in the Wales camp who knows just how dangerous Fiji can be, it is backs coach Stephen Jones.

The former fly-half played in Wales’ pool stage defeat to the Fijians in 2007, which saw Wales eliminated in the group stage.

That expansive game was Fiji at their very best, and Jones is conscious that Wales need to avoid being drawn into a similar encounter in Oita on Wednesday.

He said: “It was a huge disappointment when you get knocked out in the group stages. It highlighted what Fijian rugby is all about. Give them space and time and they move the ball well and have an offloading game and put you under pressure. They did that day and scored some wonderful tries.

“We know our game plan going into this game and it is about delivering that. It’s a mental challenge but the players are confident about how they are practising. We respect Fiji and rightly so and from a personal perspective, I am fully aware of how good they are. We have got to make sure from an attacking element when we have got the ball we keep the ball.”