May 24, 2024

Possibly not much enjoyment was had in the past year by England men’s rugby supporters.

The Six Nations was disappointing, the World Cup preparation was weak, and the pool stage raised more questions than it did answers.

 

However, there was happiness on Sunday in Marseille following a tense World Cup quarterfinal.

 

Against Fiji, Owen Farrell’s late drop-goal and penalty put an exciting climax to a good game.

 

It delivered unadulterated euphoria reminiscent of England’s most recent World Cup knockout success, a victory over New Zealand in the 2019 semifinals.

 

The excitement may have diminished when it became clear that South Africa would be their next opponent after the Springboks’ stunning victory over France later in the day.

 

The ‘written off’ England team is praised by Borthwick

But England got off to a strong start, one of their best in a year, with a formidable defense, exhilarating offense, and tremendous energy.

 

As England’s head coach Steve Borthwick put it, “a couple of thunderbolts” struck when Fiji scored two tries in rapid succession to tie the game late on. Despite this, England found a way to win.

 

For Borthwick and his team, “find a way to win” has become a catchphrase; captain Farrell stated it at least three times in the post-game press conference.

 

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“In a period of time not that long ago, the England team probably isn’t coming back to win that game,” Borthwick stated.

 

This group did. The crew is intelligent, and this man (Farrell) leads them with calmness.

 

Fans’ happiness, though, stemmed from more than just the exciting conclusion. Perhaps the gloomy year they had to endure since Eddie Jones was abruptly fired and Borthwick took over at the end of 2022 made it extra sweeter.

 

This past weekend, the home teams struggled, and England supporters saw their near neighbors suffer.

 

When shocked by late Argentina tries, Wales was unable to recover. Prior to their defeat against New Zealand, it was meant to be Ireland’s turn.

 

Even though the draw was outrageously skewed in their favor, England is still one of the final four teams.

 

Ben Earl in particular brought the audience to its feet with a late break as their forwards blasted holes in attack and knocked the Fijians backwards in defense. The defense finally appeared to gel.

 

As a former England international, Borthwick has made it a point to acknowledge the team’s support and to frequently stress the need to uphold the nation.

 

After the victory, he added, “I’m incredibly thrilled for all the supporters.

 

“What I sense here is that there’s a group of supporters that are behind this team and have been behind this team from the start of the tournament.”

 

England advances to the World Cup semifinals with Farrell’s kick.

There have been several inquests as a result of this challenging year. The entire English system has been questioned in light of financial difficulties for numerous clubs.

 

Borthwick has often drawn criticism for his team decisions, with this week’s inclusion of Farrell over George Ford at position 10 receiving particular attention.

 

Many have questioned why England is not as excellent as they should be given the resources and individual ability they possess.

 

Maybe that was all England ultimately required to fight off a final Fijian attack, which must have left limbs and lungs on fire.

 

“I think we’re developing a strong belief of finding a way to win,” Farrell stated.

 

“Panic was nonexistent. There was no time for self-pity; instead, we moved right on to the next task.

 

“After the first try (of Fiji’s two late on) it didn’t quite work but after the second one we managed to get ourselves into a position to win it.”

 

“You must overcome adversity”

Borthwick claimed that England had been “written off” shortly after the triumph.

 

The former head coach of Leicester dodged inquiries during his news conference regarding a potential siege mentality and being the underdogs against their semi-final opponents.

 

What other people think of us doesn’t really matter to me, said Borthwick. “I care about the development of the team.”

 

Less guarded, prop Ellis Genge told BBC Radio 5 Live: “We fight for each other, you have to go through some adversity to get to that.”

 

Memories of the 2019 World Cup final loss to South Africa will undoubtedly reinforce any siege mentality heading into Saturday’s semi-final.

 

The Springboks demonstrated on Sunday that they can defeat much stiffer competition as well.

 

South Africa managed to defeat France by one point in a nail-biting quarterfinal in front of a raucous Paris crowd.

 

There will be a different game and city the next weekend. World Cup champions are awaiting.

 

The finest way to say it was by Genge: “Winning brings you together.”

 

Whatever happens in Paris the next weekend, England supporters congregated in Marseille’s streets to celebrate.

 

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