England fluff lines in Wales as Steve Borthwick prepares to name World Cup squad

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Gareth Davies scores first of Wales
Gareth Davies scores first of Wales' two tries in their Principality Stadium win over England (Image: PA)

Steve Borthwick sat down to pick his World Cup squad last night shellshocked after a chastening loss to Wales.

The Red Rose boss remained in Cardiff with his coaches to reduce to 33 the playing group he will announce tomorrow to represent England in France.

Borthwick’s decision to go so early with his official announcement has come back to bite him after a performance in which only Lewis Ludlam and Joe Marchant of the ‘possibles’ enhanced their reputations.

England were outscored two tries to nil, coughed up five second half line-outs and committed 20 handling errors.

“We couldn't put any pressure on because we kept dropping the ball,” cursed Danny Care. “We dropped too many, gifted too many opportunities.

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“Against a good team like Wales, if you don't convert the pressure into points you leave yourself open.”

England fluff lines in Wales as Steve Borthwick prepares to name World Cup squadGeorge North claims Wales' second try to set seal on a big win for Warren Gatland's team (Andrew Fosker/REX/Shutterstock)

It might not have mattered so much had they, like Wales, given themselves another fortnight before finalising their tournament squad.

But after just one of their four warm-up Tests binding decisions must now be made ahead of their daunting opening clash against Argentina in five weeks time.

Borthwick said: "I will reflect where I am in terms of the squad selection and whether this game changes anything or clarifies anything regarding that.

England fluff lines in Wales as Steve Borthwick prepares to name World Cup squadMarcus Smith kicked all nine points for England who failed to score after half-time (Getty Images)

“It’s a Test match and you want to win. But this game is one piece of information that helps build a picture.”

The picture doesn’t look so good today after Jac Morgan, a 23-year old flanker, marked his first game as Wales captain with a standout display in victory over the Dragons’ arch rivals.

Gareth Davies and George North plundered third quarter tries which left Wales boss Warren Gatland bouncing.

England fluff lines in Wales as Steve Borthwick prepares to name World Cup squadJoe Marchant, along with Lewis Ludlam, provided the bright spots for England (PA)

“We’ll get a lot of confidence from that going forward,” said Gatland. “I felt some of the English forwards were blowing a bit before half-time. The last 20 minutes I thought we looked comfortable.”

Both sides had come to Cardiff off the back of exhausting hot weather training camps, looking tanned and fit but rusty in the actual business of playing the game.

Unsurprisingly it led to a forgettable opening passage, made worse for Wales hooker Ryan Elias by a sixth minute hamstring injury. England bossed the scrum but their inability to do anything with the ball would cost them later.

Borthwick changes half of England team for Six Nations opener against ScotlandBorthwick changes half of England team for Six Nations opener against Scotland
England fluff lines in Wales as Steve Borthwick prepares to name World Cup squadGareth Davies celebrates his try with fellow scorer George North (Andrew Fosker/REX/Shutterstock)

It might have been different had Joe Cokanasiga twice held onto the ball rather than dropping it. Had Guy Porter not spilled another and Jamie Blamire not overthrown a line out.

The upshot was the match locked at 6-6 until Marcus Smith gave England the edge from the penalty spot with the final kick of the half.

A three-point cushion was never going to be comfortable, not with England their own worst enemies. When Wales then joined the party with some brilliance of their own, the alarm bells went off in Borthwick’s ears.

England fluff lines in Wales as Steve Borthwick prepares to name World Cup squadEngland centre Guy Porter cuts a dejected figure after George North seals Wales win with try (PA)

It started to unravel from the moment Sam Costelow spotted Aaron Wainwright covered by the much smaller Care on the outside.

The fly-half’s pinpoint kick was fielded and in the same action the number eight powered through Care and offloaded to his captain.

Morgan shaped to go outside Cokanasiga then switched inside to wrong foot the big man and superbly hand the scoring pass to Davies.

England fluff lines in Wales as Steve Borthwick prepares to name World Cup squadLudlam is tackled by Wales forward Dafydd Jenkins (Andrew Fosker/REX/Shutterstock)

England were rocked but rather than hit back compounded the error with further handling errors and before they knew it were behind their own posts again.

This time Dan Biggar was the architect, threading through a grubber which caught England’s defence in no-man’s land.

Louis Rees-Zammit got a toe to the ball to take it past Max Malins and Leigh Halfpenny moved it on to Morgan who spread the ball inside for North to score unopposed.

It would have been worse had Ellis Genge not denied Mason Grady at the death soon after and Rees-Zammit not had a try chalked off after the TMO had initially awarded it.

But it was quite bad enough to be going on with.

WALES - Try: Davies, North. Cons: Halfpenny 2. Pens: Halfpenny 2.

ENGLAND - Pens: Smith 3.

England fluff lines in Wales as Steve Borthwick prepares to name World Cup squadEngland wing Joe Cokanasiga challenges for a high ball in Cardiff (PHIL MINGO/PPAUK/REX/Shutterstock)


PLAYER RATINGS

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny 7; Louis Rees-Zammit 8, George North 7, Max Llewellyn 7, Rio Dyer 7; Sam Costelow 7 (Dan Biggar 55, 7), Gareth Davies 8 (Tomos Williams 55, 7); Corey Domachowski 6 (Nicky Smith 50, 7), Ryan Elias 5 (E Dee 6, 7), Keiron Assiratti 6 (Henry Thomas 50, 76), Dafydd Jenkins 7 (Mason Grady 60, 7), Will Rowlands 7, Christ Tshiunza 7 (Taine Plumtree 50, 6), Jac Morgan (capt) 9, Aaron Wainwright 8.

England: Freddie Steward 7; Max Malins 6, Joe Marchant 7, Guy Porter 5, Joe Cokanasiga 4 (Henry Slade 69, 5); Marcus Smith 6 (George Ford 60, 6), Danny Care 6 (Jack Van Poortvliet 50, 6); Ellis Genge 7 (capt, Bevan Rodd 66, 6), Jamie Blamire 6 (Theo Dan 55, 6), Will Stuart 7 (Kyle Sinckler 55, 6); David Ribbans 5 (Jonny Hill 46, 5), George Martin 5; Lewis Ludlam 8, Tom Pearson 7, Alex Dombrandt 7 (Tom Willis 55, 6).

Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)

Man of the match: Jac Morgan (Wales).

Alex Spink

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