England changes scenery with work to do at RWC
Updated: September 11, 2011, 03:14
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QUEENSTOWN, New Zealand(AP) England's bruised and battered players headed to the alpine resort of Queenstown on Sunday with plenty to think about after narrowly avoiding defeat to Argentina in their World Cup opener.
Argentina forced a string of errors at the breakdown and led England 9-3 with 13 minutes left before a converted try by Ben Youngs and late penalty from Jonny Wilkinson averted a repeat of France's shock loss to the Pumas in the opening game of the 2007 tournament.
It was a close-run thing but England manager Martin Johnson can still take satisfaction from his team's ability to withstand the onslaught of a pack rated among the very best in world rugby.
"In 2007, France would have bitten your arm off to win that game,'' Johnson said.
The win means England is still on course to top Pool B and avoid a quarterfinal meeting with New Zealand, something to cheer the players as they begin a five-day stay in this winter sports resort town.
Next weekend's match against Georgia should give England a chance to work out the bugs in its system ahead of meetings with the physical Romanians and old rival Scotland.
Those bugs were clearly on show at Dunedin's Otago Stadium.
England players spent the buildup to the game highlighting their improved discipline at the setpiece and breakdown but referee Bryce Lawrence penalized them for offside, going off their feet, obstruction at the lineout, using hands on the ground, not releasing and joining the ruck from the side.
Lawrence warned England for three penalties in the first four minutes, but the calls kept coming. Prop Dan Cole was eventually yellow-carded just before halftime and spent 10 minutes in the sinbin.
"If you get behind the count, the referee gets on your back a bit,'' Johnson said. "I'd like to look at the detail, some were clumsy, some were a bit harsh.
"The guys were frustrated with some of the calls.''
The World Cup referees are under instructions to be strict on infringements at the breakdown which slow down the release of the ball.
The physical contest threatened to spill over on occasion, with England lock Courtney Lawes putting in big hits on center Gonzalo Tiesi and hooker Mario Ledesma. Tiesi may have damaged knee ligaments when he was hit after kicking the ball while Ledesma was kneed in the head as he was bundled into touch.
Teams can ask officials to study incidents within 12 hours of the end of a match, but an independent disciplinary officer has another day to study the match and cite players.
England flanker James Haskell already backed down on a claim during the match that he had been gouged.
"We have made no complaints about whatever happened then,'' assistant coach John Wells said. "There is a citing commission in place, and if they choose to do something as a result of what happened then so be it.''