World Cup holders England beat minnows USA, ranked just 15th in the world, by just 18 points at the Stade Felix Bollaert in Lens on Friday in their opening game of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
England won the World Cup in 2003 with a 20-17 victory over Australia in the Final which, like their football counterparts in 1966, came after extra-time. At the time, England were ranked number one in the world, but with many players retiring and new players coming in England are now a team in transition and, whilst World Champions, have slumped to their current ranking of 7th in the world.
England's next game in the World Cup is on Friday - against mighty South Africa.
Canada were thrashed 42-17 by Wales, the hosts and second favourites France suffered a shock 17-12 defeat at the hands of Argentina and Ireland were unconvincing in their 32-17 win over Namibia, the lowest ranking team in the World Cup.
World Cup favourites New Zealand unsurprisngly thrashed Italy 76-14 on Saturday and Australia, winners of the World Cup in 1991 (beating England in the Final) and 1999, destroyed Japan 91-3.
History also seems to be against England as they attempt to remain World Champions - NO team has EVER won the Rugby World Cup twice in a row to retain their title.
England 28 USA 10
SHAME OLD STORY ... skipper Phil Vickery and his England team-mates look downcast despite victory over the United States
September 10, 2007
RUGBY WORLD CUP
Pool A results and standings
(The following number of Match points will be awarded for each pool phase Match:
Win: 4 points
Draw: 2 points
4 or more tries: 1 point
Loss by 7 points or less: 1 point)
England 28-10 USA
South Africa 59-7 Samoa (South Africa awarded extra point)
South Africa......1.....1...0.....0....59...7....1...... 5
ENGLAND Cueto; Lewsey, Noon, Catt (Farrell 63), Robinson (Tait 67); Barkley, Perry (Richards 60); Sheridan, Regan (Chuter 63), Vickery (Stevens 63), Shaw (Corry 63), Kay, Worsley (Moody 69), Rees, Dallaglio
USA Wyles; Sika (Malifa 52), Emerick, Esikia, Ngwenya; Hercus (capt), Erskine; MacDonald (Moeakiloa 60), Lentz (Burdette 53), Osentowski, Parker, Mangan (Mexted 69), Stanfill, Clever, Bloomfield (Basauri 56)
ENGLAND need to do something against South Africa on Friday that they have not done since winning the World Cup.
They need to play like the world champions that they are.
Always next time the big one — honest folks.
Repeated rallying calls followed by repeated flops.
A handful of good wins in four years of otherwise frustrating under-achievement.
Then came this desperate display in Lens in their Pool A opener against a team England’s reserves bury regularly in Churchill Cup ties.
On the evidence revealed at the Stade Felix Bollaert in front of 35,000 numbed witnesses, England could face a struggle to qualify from the group.
Despite blatant ball-killing and lawbending by the Americans, England should still have possessed the nous to unveil their alleged superiority.
Elsewhere, games between the giants and the gnomes of world rugby went according to formbook and plan.
Australia obliterated Japan 91-3 in Pool B and New Zealand crushed Italy 76-14 in Pool C.
England finished up drawing the second half against the USA 7-7 and ended the game conceding penalties in desperate defence during which former captain Lawrence Dallaglio was sin-binned.
Worst of all, having failed in 30 minutes to score a fourth try and therefore earn what could yet prove to be a priceless bonus point, England conceded one.
It was scored by Matekitonga Moeakiola — a man with more vowels than England had ideas — who plays for Stateside club Park City Haggis. You couldn’t make it up.
This was supposed to be England’s strongest starting XV, but too many players misfired on the day.
Too often the final pass went off-beam, possession was dropped or surrendered and players simply ran poor lines and took wrong options when try-scoring opportunities looked possible.
Olly Barkley, Shaun Perry and Tom Rees are excused shelling because they were at the core of what did go right for England, particularly during the first half.
Barkley’s dancing breaks opened up the USA four times, but those around him failed to take things on and a crowd packed with England supporters had to make do on a paltry diet of penalties. Barkley and USA captain Mike Hercus exchanged early goals before Barkley nudged England into the lead with penalties on 21 and 30 minutes.
Just when it seemed the first half would finish try-less, England produced the type of move few teams in the world can defend.
Josh Lewsey’s aggressive, twisting break on the right did the initial damage before the ball was whipped left and collected by Mike Catt, whose accurate cross-kick dropped perfectly into Jason Robinson’s arms.
The man who scored England’s last try of the 2003 World Cup scored their first of 2007 and his 28th all told.
The Americans were still regrouping when England scored their second try on the stroke of half-time.
Lewsey was again involved, as was Ben Kay, before Barkley arrowed in from the right to score close enough to the posts to simplify his conversion. So, 21-3 up and apparently flying, England emerged for the second half — and just fumbled and faded away.
Their bonus point seemed a formality when Rees took a quick 48th-minute tapped free-kick on the left and ploughed through the defence from close range for try No 3.
Instead, Ashton sent on all seven replacements, starting with Peter Richards for Perry on the hour, and what continuity the team possessed evaporated.
One by one they came and went, bit by bit the England game deteriorated.
Not one replacement made a positive difference and the sooner the authorities do something about this distracting, pointless curse of chopping and changing the better.
And so to the Springboks, who will not be losing any sleep after witnessing this flop before taking the Samoans apart 59-7 in Paris yesterday.
Australia 91-3 Japan(Australia awarded extra point)
Wales 42-17 Canada (Wales awarded extra point)
New Zealand 76-14 Italy (New Zealand awarded extra point)
Scotland 56-10 Portugal (Scotland awarded extra point)
France 12-17 Argentina (France awarded point)
Ireland 32-17 Namibia (Ireland awarded extra point)
ENGLAND 28-10 USA: IN PICTURES
England 28-10 USA: Olly Barkley's breaks are repelled as World Cup-holders England have to settle for trading early penalties in Lens
Barkley kicks two more penalties as England move 9-3 ahead after 30 minutes with the USA's Vahafolau Esikia in the sin bin
And England make the extra man count, Jason Robinson strolls over after collecting Mike Catt's cross-field chip
Josh Lewsey, Catt and Ben Kay then combine to allow Barkley to glide over as England take a 21-3 lead into the break
Tom Rees barges over after taking a quick tap penalty to extend England's advantage 10 minutes into the second half
But the predicted avalanche of tries does not materialise and Lawrence Dallaglio is sin-binned late on for spoiling
That paves the way for Matekitonga Moeakiola to power over for the United States who finish the match the stronger side