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SPORTS | 26-10-2023 10:03

Déjà vu as Argentina, England battle for Rugby World Cup third place

Argentina play England in the Rugby World Cup's third-place play off on Friday with both sides licking their wounds from two very different semi-final losses.

Argentina play England in the Rugby World Cup's third-place play off on Friday with both sides licking their wounds from two very different semi-final losses and having already met during the tournament.

The Pumas were pitifully hammered 44-6 by a rampaging New Zealand but can equal their best-ever finish in the tournament with a win at the Stade de France.

Steve Borthwick's valiant England, champions in 2003, led holders South Africa until Handre Pollard's 77th minute claimed the 16-15 victory for the Springboks.

"As a player when you have had a defeat, especially the nature of Saturday night, if you could run out there and play again you would," Borthwick told reporters this week.

"It's the same as a coach. I am excited about the development of the team, how they have dealt with tough situations," the former England captain added.

The two teams met in their opening game of the World Cup, with George Ford's three drop goals helping England to a 27-10 success in a humid Marseille.

Both sides were clinical, if not expansive, as they reached last weekend's last four, where they came undone against the two best teams in the world.

"For us, for everything we did and for the country, to be able to win bronze is to finish as high as we can," Argentina coach Michael Cheika said.

"Also the experience for everyone in the group, for the future and the legacy of the most experienced players. 

"Finishing as high as we can was always the goal," the Australian added.

 

Curry controversy

Argentina have reached this stage of the competition twice, losing to South Africa in 2015 after edging hosts France eight years earlier across Paris at the Parc des Princes.

That victory over Les Bleus announced the Pumas as a leading rugby playing nation and they were subsequently invited to play in the annual Tri-Nations, now known as the Rugby Championship with the Boks, the All Blacks and Australia.

Cheika, who could leave his position at the end of the tournament, has made three changes to his team including 20-year-old lock Pedro Rubiolo, who replaces Tomás Lavanini to partner Guido Petti.

"England, beyond the changes, are a very structured team," Petti said.

"They try to play the same way, they feel comfortable doing that as they are strong there.

"I think it will be very similar to the first game in terms of their kicking game and set pieces, where they have become strong," he added.

Borthwick has chosen against giving retiring veterans Courtney Lawes and Jonny May their Test good-byes but experienced scrum-half Ben Youngs starts his final international appearance.

The coach has made eight changes from the Boks knock-out blow, handing youngsters like winger Henry Arundell and hooker Theo Dan some international experience as he plans for the future with seven of his starting line-up aged 25 or under.

Flanker Tom Curry, who only turns 26 next June, makes his 50th England appearance despite being at the centre of an investigation into an allegation he was racially abused by South Africa hooker Bongi Mbonambi during last weekend's semi-final.

"This is a guy who wants to play. There is no doubt in my mind," Borthwick said.

"The way he has prepared himself has been incredible. I couldn't be more proud of him."

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by Illtud Dafydd, AFP

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