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England resume their World Cup campaign when they face Japan in their second Pool D encounter at Stade de Nice on Sunday.
Here the PA news agency examines five talking points heading into the showdown on the French Riviera.
No more cards
England have amassed more cards this year than any team ranked in the top 10, accumulating five yellows and four reds. It is a debilitating statistic and while Steve Borthwick and Kevin Sinfield are adamant that the team do not have a discipline problem, they know they can not keep playing with 14 men – or even less. The officiating of incidents involving head contact and their subsequent disciplinary hearings during this World Cup have been plagued by inconsistency, making avoiding dangerous play more important than ever.
Sharpen the attack
England delivered a defensive masterclass to nullify clueless Argentina but there was no masking their attacking deficiencies. The most glaring moment was the butchering of a clear overlap that the same players would finish with ease for their clubs. If England are to advance deeper into the World Cup they must show they have the capacity to score tries as drop goals and penalties alone will not be sufficient to see off the big guns.
Sinckler ready to roll
A big moment looms for Kyle Sinckler, who will be making his first World Cup appearance since he was knocked out in the final against South Africa four years ago. Sinckler was in the form of his career in Japan, his scrummaging, ball handling skills and rampaging runs elevating him into the sport’s elite band of tighthead props. The 30-year-old has failed to rescale those heights since and now that he has recovered from a chest injury to take his place in the front row, he will be determined to invoke his 2019 form.
Ford’s final audition
A fudge beckons when Borthwick is confronted with one of the toughest selection decisions of his young reign. George Ford was outstanding against Argentina and is in the form of his life, but with Owen Farrell completing a four-match suspension against Japan the long-term friends are battling for the same number 10 jersey. Borthwick will reveal his thinking in the final group fixture against Samoa on October 7 when he is expected to reunite the duo in a playmaking axis that served England well in 2019, but before then Ford has one last opportunity to show why he should be entrusted to pilot the team by himself.
Tika Taka Japan
Defence coach Sinfield has compared Japan’s tactics to the ‘Tika Taka’ football played by Barcelona and England are on guard for dynamic opponents who like to move the ball and look for space over contact. They are not the force of four years ago when they lit up their home World Cup through enterprise and courage, but they have the capacity to upset the favourites if they hit their stride.
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