England coach Borthwick will wait on Farrell, Gatland furious with defeat

13 August 2023 - 09:48
By Mitch Phillips
Maro Itoje scores England's first try in their Rugby World Cup warm-up match agaainst Wales at Twickenham in London on August 12 2023.
Image: Action Images via Reuters/Cat Goryn Maro Itoje scores England's first try in their Rugby World Cup warm-up match agaainst Wales at Twickenham in London on August 12 2023.

England coach Steve Borthwick declined to speculate over a potential World Cup opener ban for Owen Farrell after his captain was sent off during England's crazy 19-17 win over Wales on Saturday but said he was immensely proud of his team.

Farrell was shown a yellow card, upgraded to red, after his shoulder hit Taine Basham's jaw with the sort of no arms tackle that he has made something of a trademark.

He faces an almost certain minimum three-game ban, meaning he would miss England's final two warm-ups against Ireland and Fiji and their World Cup opener against Argentina.

“Regarding Owen, we'll wait and see what happens,” Borthwick said after a game that featured four yellow cards for England — including Farrell's — and two for Wales. “When I named the squad I said there will be a need to adapt and if anything changes we will.

“The same with Jack van Poortvliet [after the scrumhalf went off injured]. He'll get a scan. Rather than jump to any conclusions, we'll wait and see what happens.”

England were largely toothless for an hour but came to life when reduced to 12 men, spiritedly clawing their way back from 17-9 down to victory with a Maro Itoje try to a George Ford penalty.

“I'm incredibly proud of the character and resilience and it is an immense credit to them after going down to 12. This is a group of players who just don’t stop,” Borthwick said.

“We want 15 on the pitch but we know cards are part of the game now, and we practice those scenarios. We did it this week, though not down to 12. Ultimately we don’t want to be in that situation but they dealt with it and came through it well.

“Wales games are often arm wrestles, Warren (Gatland) coaches a team that is hard to beat — very similar the way Argentina play — so that's a perfect dress rehearsal.”

Wales coach Gatland was fuming after his 15 men somehow allowed England back into the game when it was 15 players against 12. “I am furious actually, I am hugely disappointed but it answered a few questions for us about a few individuals,” he said. “The final quarter wasn’t good enough, we should have won the game. It was disappointing.

“It is just about some game management when we had them on the ropes and we just let them off the hook which is disappointing and answered a few questions. We gave away soft penalties at key moments, with the yellow card as well.

“I hate losing and we put ourselves into a position where we should have won. We capitulated in terms of accuracy and players knowing their roles.

“But we’ve had eight new caps in the last few weeks and that was the most experienced England squad they’ve ever put out but they didn’t threaten us in terms of their attack apart from the driving maul,” he said.

“That was a game we should have won and we cost it ourselves. We need to be much better than we were today for next weekend [against South Africa in their final warm-up].”