England prop Dan Cole is braced for a big clash at the scrum when they open their Rugby World Cup campaign with a crucial Pool D clash against Argentina; defence coach Kevin Sinfield revealed Marcus Smith could continue his role from the warm-up games at full-back
Last Updated: 06/09/23 1:59pm
Dan Cole insists Argentina’s scrum remains a significant threat to England’s hopes of making a triumphant start to their Rugby World Cup campaign.
Two sides who take pride in their forward dominance collide in Pool D’s highest-profile fixture in Marseille on Saturday, with the winners placing one foot into the quarter-finals.
Argentina’s last great scrum was 2015 when feared props Marcos Ayerza and Ramiro Herrera helped them reach the World Cup semi-finals.
However, England tighthead prop Cole insists they are still a formidable set-piece unit, particularly with his Leicester Tigers team-mate Julian Montoya present in their front row.
“It’s a force,” Cole said. “You look at their team in the Rugby Championship, they’re dangerous. If you have one scrummage where you are not fully focused, they will do you damage and get stuck into you.
“They’re a dangerous team and they’ve grown their game in other areas. We know what’s coming up front.
“They love the physical contest. You speak to some of their front five – Tomas Lavanini when he was at Leicester and Montoya – and they relish the physical part of the game.
“Marcos Ayerza could talk for days about the scrum, both the physical and mental aspect of it. That’s the tradition of their game, we respect that and we look forward to playing them because that’s the game.”
Cole will likely be in the front line of resistance to Argentina’s forward assault at the Stade Velodrome as he prepares to take part in his fourth World Cup.
The 36-year-old’s Test career appeared to be over until his former Leicester boss Steve Borthwick’s arrival as head coach offered a route back, and he made his first appearance since the 2019 final in the recent Six Nations.
England’s scrum was overwhelmed by South Africa in the World Cup final in Yokohama four years ago and Cole appeared to have paid the price.
“I didn’t think this would happen but now I’m here and I’m very happy and grateful to be part of it,” Cole said.
“It was a surprise to get the call from Steve because I hadn’t played for England for three years. I’d worked with him at Leicester but he didn’t give anything away.
“After 2019 and what happened in the final, I wouldn’t say it would have been easy to have packed it in, but it would have been easy to just drift.”
Borthwick names his starting XV on Thursday afternoon, with either Will Stuart or Kyle Sinckler set to join Cole in the 23.
Sinfield: Smith an option for full-back role
Kevin Sinfield has revealed Marcus Smith is still an option at full-back as England look to ignite their attack.
Harlequins fly-half Smith injected energy and creativity into England’s game when appearing as a second-half replacement in the World Cup warm-up fixtures against Ireland and Fiji, and is under consideration as support for starting No 15 Freddie Steward.
“Marcus is a magician with the ball – step off both feet, quick, can beat the opposition for fun,” defence coach Sinfield said. “So why not try to give him a bit more time and space than he would typically get at 10, try to get him a little bit wider?
“We have been working on it for some weeks now with him in training. He’s been incredible at the back.
“He embraced it straight away. It was a question that was posed to him: Have you ever played 15? His first answer was ‘No, but I would love to’.
“It would be crazy of us to put Marcus in the team and not try to put the ball in his hands, and give him space to attack. He’s a different attacking threat to Fred – Fred is 6ft 4in and 105kg, so he brings a different threat to Marcus when he carries the ball.”
Elsewhere in the team, Borthwick faces a difficult decision at scrum-half with no clear pick emerging from the trio of Ben Youngs, Danny Care and Alex Mitchell.
Manu Tuilagi is expected to be joined in the centres by either Ollie Lawrence or Joe Marchant, while two of Elliot Daly, Jonny May, Max Malins and Henry Arundell will fill the wing slots.
Follow England’s opening Rugby World Cup match against Argentina across Sky Sports’ digital platforms from 7.30pm, kick-off 8pm on Saturday.