LILLE: Winger Henry Arundell scored five tries on his Rugby World Cup debut as England tore up the safety-first playbook from their first two matches with a crushing 71-0 defeat of Chile on Saturday to give coach Steve Borthwick a selection quandary.
England, who made 12 changes from the starting line-up against Japan, scored 11 tries, including five for 20-year-old winger Arundell that equalled an England record, albeit against the lowest-ranked team in the tournament playing at their first Rugby World Cup.
The changes included captain Owen Farrell returning from suspension but arguably it was another fly-half, Marcus Smith, starting for the first time at full-back, who stole the limelight with flashes of the spontaneous touches England have missed in recent months that made a strong case for his inclusion in the team later in the tournament.
Although England can start planning for a quarterfinal in Marseille against Wales, Australia, or Fiji, they are not mathematically assured of progress as an unlikely defeat to Samoa in their final match in two weeks, combined with other results, could leave them in a three-way tie at the top which would be decided on points difference.
They top the standings with 14 points. Samoa and Japan have five, Argentina four, and Chile are yet to register after three defeats.
“A lot of those were tap-ins, so it’s the work done up front then the smarts from the inside lads to get the ball wide,” said Arundell. “I really appreciate all they’ve done for me.”
He also had high praise for Smith. “Marcus is a fantastic player,” he said. “You can see the game-breaking stuff he can do, whether that’s at 10 or 15.”
After a messy opening, once Arundell was set up for a walk-in try after 20 minutes the floodgates opened, as hooker Theo Dan, Arundell again, and prop Bevan Rodd scored.
The best of the bunch came just before the break when Smith sprinted clear and got a lovely bounce from his own chip to score and secure a 31-0 halftime lead.
Chile prop Matias Dittus was yellow-carded for dangerously pulling down a maul and England immediately added their sixth through Dan after another maul.
Arundell then got on the end of an Elliot Daly kick to complete one of the easiest hattricks anyone will ever score at a Rugby World Cup.
George Ford came on at fly-half after 50 minutes, with Farrell moving to inside-centre and Smith remaining at 15 as the “three 10s” concept discussed by England’s coaches this week came to fruition.
It was one-way traffic by then and Arundell got his fourth, chipping and gathering his own kick.
Ford and Smith then combined to send Arundell in for his fifth to equal England’s individual record previously shared by three players – Josh Lewsey against Uruguay in their triumphant 2003 World Cup campaign, Rory Underwood against Fiji in 1989, and Daniel Lambert against France in 1907.
Another lovely dummy by Ford sent Smith in for his second try to cap a brilliant individual display and flanker Jack Willis finished things off with the 11th.
Farrell, who converted eight of them, had a solid return after his four-match ban and Borthwick is likely to keep him in his first-choice side, probably at centre with Ford at fly-half. The bigger question is whether Smith’s adventure will force him past the defensively solid regular full-back Freddie Steward.
Chile showed touches of ambition in the first half but never really threatened and were chasing shadows after the break.
Their coach Pablo Lemoine, who scored a try for Uruguay against England in that 2003 match, said, “I’m not really disappointed, that’s reality. We are coming here and we are part of the show but we can’t play the game.”
“We haven’t played that kind of game in the cycle between the World Cups. I hope that changes because it’s not good for the game or the supporters.”