Mitchell starts for England as Curry returns in crucial RWC opener with Pumas

Mitchell starts for England as Curry returns in crucial RWC opener with Pumas
Tom Curry of England makes a break during a training session at Stade Ferdinand Petit on 7 September, 2023 in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, France. England will face Argentina in their first Rugby World Cup France 2023 match on 9 September, 2023. (Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

England and Argentina clash in Marseille in the Rugby World Cup opener with Alex Mitchell unexpectedly starting for England and an experienced Puma pack ready to challenge them.

England coach Steve Borthwick has named scrumhalf Alex Mitchell in the starting line-up for his side’s Rugby World Cup opener against Argentina, a month after he was omitted from the original squad for the tournament, in one of four changes to the team that suffered a shock defeat to Fiji.

An injury to Jack van Poortvliet opened the door for Mitchell to join the squad and the Northampton man has now leapfrogged Danny Care and Ben Youngs to take the number nine jersey in a pivotal opening encounter.

There is good news for England with Tom Curry returning from injury to start at openside. Curry is joined in the loose trio by skipper Courtney Lawes and Ben Earl, who starts at eight in place of the suspended Billy Vunipola.

Alex Mitchell, Rugby World Cup

Alex Mitchell of England takes a shot at goal during a training sesison at Stade Ferdinand Petit on 5 September, 2023 in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, France. (Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

With Owen Farrell still sidelined by suspension, George Ford starts at flyhalf, with Manu Tuilagi at 12, and Joe Marchant, a replacement last time out, starting at outside centre. Elliot Daly has recovered from a knee injury to take his place on the wing, with Jonny May switching to the right wing to accommodate the Saracens man. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup 2023

“With an excellent week of preparation in Le Touquet, the players are now looking forward to starting their Rugby World Cup campaign under the lights in Marseille on Saturday,” said Borthwick.

“After a number of impressive performances in the last 12 months by Argentina, we know that the first game in our pool will provide a stern test.”

Los Pumas coach Michael Cheika has selected a starting XV that includes 13 players who featured in the line-up that beat England 30-29 at Twickenham last November.

Agustin Creevy, Rugby World Cup

Agustin Creevy of Argentina (centre) and teammates sign the national anthem prior to their match against New Zealand at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas on 28 July, 2023 in Mendoza, Argentina. (Photo: Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

Captain Julian Montoya leads an experienced pack that includes five players with 50 caps or more, with centurion Agustin Creevy among the replacements. 

Cheika has gone with a 6-2 split on the bench and confirmed that Juan Cruz Mallia, who returns at fullback, will serve as a backup number ten if required.

“We have a lot of confidence in him (Mallia) and in his role,” Cheika told reporters. “The first game he played for Toulouse was at flyhalf. (He will) touch the ball many times more when he plays at flyhalf, a position that requires more responsibility.” DM

England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Jonny May, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes (c), 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge

Replacements: 16 Theo Dan, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Will Stuart, 19 George Martin, 20 Lewis Ludlam, 21 Danny Care, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Ollie Lawrence


Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (c), 1 Thomas Gallo

Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Pedro Rubiolo, 21 Rodrigo Bruni, 22 Lautaro Bazan Velez, 23 Matias Moroni


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