England 19-17 Wales: what have we learned from the World Cup warm-up?

Courtney Lawes carries the ball for England
Courtney Lawes (centre) said England showed their “strength of character” by beating Wales from a deficit at Twickenham

Wales gave up their lead as England ended their three-game losing streak, but what else have we learned from their second meeting in seven days?

Farrell and Van Poortvliet have to wait nervously

England centre-backs Owen Farrell and Jack van Poortvliet could miss part of the World Cup, albeit for different reasons.

Van Poortvliet limped away after an accidental clash while Farrell became the first England player to receive a red card from a rugby player “Bunker” rating system for foul play.

The system is used during the Summer Nations Series and came into play when field umpire Nika Amashukeli could not decide whether Farrell’s high tackle, which caused direct contact with Taine Basham’s head, was more than a yellow card.

Farrell was initially sent to the penalty box before later being shown a red card which could result in a lengthy suspension.

Farrell has come off a four-week suspension and has returned released to play in the Six Nations opener between England and Scotland after a high tackle on Gloucester’s Jack Clement for the Saracens in January.

It remains to be seen how long Farrell will be out, but England head coach Steve Borthwick, who announced his 33-man World Cup squad on Monday, may have to start preparations for the opening game against Argentina on September 9 without his captain in mind.

Who might pilot the English ship in Farrell’s absence?

With Farrell likely to miss part of the tournament in France, who could England field at half-time?

Farrell and Marcus Smith vied for the top 10 shirt in the Six Nations, while George Ford put in a superb performance from the bench and took the winning penalty in the win over Wales.

Childhood friends Ford and Farrell have played with and against each other since they were young, and Ford said the group will support Farrell while the outcome of his red card is being deliberated.

Ford told Amazon Prime: “Whoever gets the opportunity to play Ireland next week will do their best and then when it comes to the World Cup it will be the same.”

“One thing is for sure – Steve Borthwick and the coaches will have the best plan ahead of the game (next week vs Ireland).”

Injury concerns are mounting in Wales

As with all teams preparing for the World Cup, staying in impeccable health is a top priority ahead of next month’s tournament.

Wales welcomed British and Irish Lions full-back Liam Williams as a secure backcourt presence in his first game in five months, while Scarlets center Joe Roberts impressed in his first test.

Trouble starts further up the road, however, as substitute captain Dewi Lake lasted just 26 minutes before succumbing to a knee injury.

Dewi Lake has to retire injured
Wales captain Dewi Lake had to leave the field in the first half with a knee injury

Ryan Elias was substituted in last week’s win over England in Cardiff, meaning Sam Parry and Elliot Dee are the only hookers in Wales’ extended training squad.

Flanker Taine Plumtree had to be substituted with an arm injury, adding to injury concerns in the Wales back line, with number eight Taulupe Faletau still struggling with a calf problem.

Dafydd Jenkins, George North, Gareth Anscombe, Johnny Williams and Alex Cuthbert are also injured.

Gatland ‘furious’ at defeat

Wales head coach Warren Gatland has much to worry about after his side squandered an eight-point lead against a struggling England, who at times had three players in sin in the second half.

Gatland will name their 33-man squad for the World Cup on August 21, two days after the final warm-up game against South Africa in Cardiff. But did some of his charges thwart his plans?

“I’m pretty dazed – actually angry – and pretty disappointed,” Gatland said.

“I hate losing, especially when you put yourself in a position to finish a game.”

“We let her off the hook, which was disappointing, but it answered a few questions. We found out about a few people today.”

“That was a game we should have won and we cost ourselves.”

Earl is characterized by England showing their resilience

England struggled with their attacking intent and discipline as four players were penalized during the game.

But one man who didn’t hurt his chances of playing in France was Ben Earl.

Ben Earl carries the ball for England
Ben Earl (second left) was named man of the match by the TV pundits on his first start for England

The flanker is one of the most competitive positions in the England team as Tom Curry is yet to recover from injury, but Earl has been a nuisance in defense against Wales, hitting red shirts and stealing balls all over the park.

His tireless performance in his first Test start saw him named Man of the Match by former Welsh and British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton, whose preferred position was also on the flank.

Earl’s performance showed England’s resilience, which only showed late as the team came from behind to claim victory.

Courtney Lawes, who played on flank with Earl, said England showed “strength of character”.

“There aren’t many teams that win this game, so we can take a lot of positives from it,” Lawes said.

β€œAt the same time, going down to 12 men is probably not good enough. If we continue to put ourselves in situations like this, we probably won’t do as well as we did today.”

“There’s a lot to learn but it’s great to show that strength of character so early on and it gives us confidence to keep going, doing things right and making sure we’re out there and taking a step better.”

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