Rugby Union

We can win ugly like boys of 2003, insists England prop Joe Marler

England prop Joe Marler taking inspiration from Sir Clive Woodward’s 2003 World Cup winners as they look to peak at the right time in France

  • England have ground out opening victories over Argentina and Japan
  • But they were booed by a pocket of their supporters on Sunday night 
  • Prop Joe Marler said there are no plans to ‘finesse’ their style in France
  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

Joe Marler pointed to the ‘ugly wins’ by Sir Clive Woodward’s 2003 World Cup winners in defence of England’s kick-heavy playing style in France.

England were booed by a pocket of their supporters on Sunday night, despite securing a bonus-point victory to put them in prime position for the quarter-finals.

Their strategy has resulted in more than 2,000 kick metres in the opening victories over Argentina and Japan but prop Marler said there are no plans to ‘finesse’ their style.

‘Finesse – why do you have to finesse it?’ said Marler. ‘You’ve just got to win, haven’t you? What did England do 20 years ago? Find a way to win in the World Cup.

‘You talk about style of play, don’t you? A lot of people do. They went a couple of phases, Jonny (Wilkinson) slotted some penalties and some drop goals. They won ugly, a lot of that tournament, but we don’t talk about that now do we?

Prop Joe Marler has defended England’s kick-heavy playing style at Rugby World Cup

England No 10 George Ford is the competition’s leading points scorer with 41 points

Marler says England won ‘ugly’ a lot on their way to winning the Rugby World Cup in 2003

‘We talk about them winning the World Cup. You forget about how you did it. You don’t talk about South Africa getting pumped in the first game against New Zealand in 2019, you talk about them pumping us in the final and then lifting the trophy.’

‘I’d love us to be that team that builds and builds and builds and then we peak. I’d love us to go and win the World Cup. That’s why we’re here. But we will have to just concentrate on taking the lessons, learning from them and trying to improve and keep building, taking it one game at a time.’

England No 10 George Ford is the competition’s leading points scorer after the first two rounds – with all 41 of his points coming from the boot. He attributed England’s handling errors in Nice to the sweaty, humid conditions and asked the militant fans to get on board with their approach.

‘We’re here to win games aren’t we?’ said Ford. ‘That’s our job. We want to win Test matches. You’ve got to understand how difficult it is out there. It may not look it from the stands or on TV, but it’s actually more difficult than if was throwing it down – because of the grease and the sweat on the ball. We all have the best intentions but the best way to win Test matches, especially in those conditions, is to take smart decisions.

‘We want to make every English fan proud, of course we do, and we understand the sacrifices and commitment they make and we value that so highly, we do.

‘But we want to be a winning team and we want them to be proud of our winning team as well. That would be my message to them – that we’re going to put everything into it to win games to make them proud.’

Ford has taken control of the team and steered them back to winning ways in the absence of banned captain Owen Farrell.

The skipper will return from his four-match ban in time for Saturday’s game against Chile, leaving Borthwick with a tricky selection decision.

‘We’re delighted his ban’s over,’ said Ford. ‘I was joking with him after the game because he’s not been allowed on the field, but I think after that game he’s officially allowed back on the field again.

‘So we’re delighted to have him back. You can imagine what he’s been like in training anyway, the influence he’s having and the influence he has had on the team in the past.

‘So me, Owen and Marcus (Smith), as 10s, we’re doing our utmost to drive this team forward, Steve will make the selections to win the games and we’ll buy into that.’

Marler and Co will be hoping to emulate Martin Johnson’s heroes of the 2003 World Cup

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