Kevin Sinfield’s ‘ROCKET’ talk on tackling helped 14-men England surge to victory against Argentina but the Roses coach insists they won’t get carried away
- Kevin Sinfield’s defensive tactics helped England beat Argentina on Saturday
- The defence coach held stern talks with the team before the tournament
- Sinfield credited England’s players for beating Argentina with 14-men
- Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results
England’s stirring defensive revival against Argentina last Saturday was inspired by ‘rocket’ man Kevin Sinfield, who delivered some stark home truths to the squad after their capitulation against Fiji two weeks earlier.
The cross-code defence guru and his players endured some fierce criticism after a grim tally of 27 missed tackles contributed to a shock defeat at Twickenham in the last World Cup warm-up.
Sinfield responded by delivering a blunt post-mortem verdict which paved the way for a dramatic turn-around in the 27-10 Pool D victory over the Pumas on Saturday.
While official data suggested England missed 23 tackles in their tournament opener, they were utterly transformed; delivering a thunderous onslaught with 14 men which reduced their South American opponents to a state of near disarray.
In the second half, English defenders hunted down rival ball-carriers with relentless intensity and savage force in contact. It was a collective, 80-minute demonstration of sustained aggression which underpinned a heartening win.
Kevin Sinfield helped oversee England’s opening Rugby World Cup win over Argentina
England managed an impressive victory against Argentina despite being reduced to 14-men
England players finally had smiles on their faces after torrid warm-up preparations for the World Cup
England were deflated after World Cup warm-up defeat against Fiji at Twickenham
Full-back Freddie Steward has revealed how the harsh but essential talk from Sinfield in the aftermath of the Fiji debacle had the desired effect.
‘We got a bit of a rocket after that game,’ he said. ‘There were no complaints about that, it needed to happen. We had a very thorough review, which we needed, and I think we reaped the benefits. It was necessary for that to happen.
‘That’s what makes Kev such a good defence coach; he’s so inspiring. He motivates us so much and he’s the sort of bloke you don’t want to let down. That’s testament to him as a bloke.
‘When you go out there, part of it is you do it for him. You don’t want to see a guy like that who puts his heart and soul into us in his work with his defence feel let down.
‘The defence was phenomenal. Against a very good outfit, it was no mean feat to keep them out until the end as we did there.’
Sinfield admitted that ‘there was a fair amount to fix’ after the Fiji defeat. He said: ‘The big message was, “We have to be better. We’re not showing what we’re doing in training, it’s not transferring”.
‘The boys have been excellent. I’ve really enjoyed working with them, but we’d not seen the transfer. Thankfully we started to see some of that on Saturday.
‘That’s one game for us. We understand that throughout August, we were poor over four games. We certainly won’t get carried away. We were pretty balanced in how we handled those four games. We’ll continue to be balanced now.’
Sinfield (right) came into the England set-up alongside new head coach Steve Borthwick (left)
One of the issues cited by Sinfield in his assessment of the previous defensive shortcomings was the need to weld together and unify players from several clubs. ‘It takes time to get them on the same page,’ he said.
‘It takes them to understand each other and how their games fit together. We’ve worked particularly hard on that. You’ve got to defend for the guy next to you and understand and have some trust that he’s going to be there for you. We showed some of that.’
The third-minute dismissal of Tom Curry – whose yellow card for a dangerous tackle was later upgraded to red – left England in a dire predicament; reduced to 14 men for vast majority of the match against powerful rivals.
What followed was a statement of defiance as they held the line and repelled the Pumas until Michael Cheika’s side snatched a late, face-saving try, when the game was long since up.
Sinfield acknowledged that the recent pattern of England being hampered by regular red and yellow cards has to be rectified, as they cannot keep summoning up backs-to-the-wall heroism in adversity. He would prefer them to be at full strength and engaged in a fair fight.
‘It is clearly more difficult to do that (defend) with 14 men on the field,’ he said. ‘We have had to do that four times out of the last six. I thought we handled it really well, but I don’t want us to keep handling that. None of us do. We are a better team with 15 on the field.
England full-back Freddie Steward (pictured) has revealed how the harsh but essential talk from Sinfield in the aftermath of the Fiji debacle had the desired effect
Sinfield admitted it was a ‘disappointment’ for England to have Tom Curry (middle left) sent off for this tackle against Argentina
England will be able to include Billy Vunipola (left) in their next game after serving his ban
‘The back row is the heartbeat of the defence and to lose Tom, after the work he has put in, was tough for us. We knew he was going to have a big game from the way he trained and the influence he had on the group. We are all disappointed for him.’
While one England back-rower is in danger of being ruled out of Sunday’s second pool fixture, against Japan in Nice, Billy Vunipola is now available again after serving a ban for his high tackle against Ireland in Dublin last month.
Sinfield over-saw the No 8’s ‘tackle school’ lessons as part of his sanction, but warned that it is not a guaranteed means of preventing re-offending.
‘People expect it just to be fixed because they have gone through tackle school,’ he said. ‘But just because you do a speed awareness course, doesn’t mean you are never going to speed again. These guys are humans and will make mistakes. We will continue to mitigate that.’
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