England hold off Argentina fightback to claim third place at Rugby Union World Cup

England held their nerve to overcome Argentina’s determined fightback. Credit: PA

England held their nerve to overcome Argentina’s determined fightback and finish the World Cup in third place with a tense 26-23 victory at the Stade de France.

Ben Earl and Theo Dan touched down but England will rue allowing a 13-0 lead to slip away, the Pumas clearly out to avenge their rout when the teams met in the pool stage seven weeks ago.

The remaining points for England in an arm-wrestle of a contest in which Tom Curry and Sam Underhill excelled were supplied by Owen Farrell’s flawless kicking, which ultimately proved the difference between the sides.

England have now finished in the World Cup’s top three on five occasions, with only Saturday’s finalists New Zealand and South Africa managing more podium appearances.

Argentina were roared on by the neutrals in a 77,674 crowd and with only pockets of Red Rose supporters present, it was the most partisan atmosphere Steve Borthwick’s side have faced at the World Cup.

Farrell was booed repeatedly and Ben Youngs drew the same reaction when he jogged off with half an hour left, even though the nation’s most capped player was making his 127th and final appearance.

The evening was not much fun for Henry Arundell, who ran in five tries against Chile yet was passed the ball only once here, reducing one of England’s most dangerous runners to the role of bystander until he was withdrawn with 15 minutes left.

Having produced among the worst semi-final appearances in World Cup history against New Zealand, Argentina were far hungrier as they looked to emulate their previous best tournament performance of third place in 2007.

England's Owen Farrell with his bronze medal after the Rugby World Cup 2023. Credit: PA

It was the Pumas side who edged Wales in the last eight that ultimately turned up at the Stade de France, although it took them time to get going.

It was part of a bright start by England, who kicked intelligently and were accurate in everything they did, enabling them to build a 13-0 lead when Farrell added two penalties.

Argentina were already on the ropes but they took heart from making headway through the white defence until they were sent hurtling backwards at a scrum in front of the posts.

As chants of “Argentina, Argentina” sounded around the Stade de France and the Pumas vigorously celebrated winning a penalty, there was a sense of occasion of the match even if play was stop-start and often ugly.

Farrell and Nicolas Sanchez traded penalties and with neither side able to seize control of the game, an edgy climax approached.

Sanchez missed what should have been a routine penalty and England were not troubled again, closing out the match in the right half of the pitch.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…