England are top of Pool D after beating Japan 34-12 at Stade de Nice on Sunday.

The teams went into the break with England 13-9 ahead courtesy of Lewis Ludlam’s early score and the boot of Mastercard Player of the Match George Ford.

Japan fly-half Rikiya Matsuda added his fourth penalty soon after half-time to make it a one-point game, but Courtney Lawes hit back with England’s second try after the ball took a fortunate bounce off the head of prop Joe Marler.

Freddie Steward then got on the end of Ford’s precise cross-field kick to score in the corner, before Joe Marchant dived over for the bonus-point try in the final play as England made it two wins from two at Rugby World Cup 2023.

Mastercard Player of the Match¬†George Ford¬†said: “We’re just really happy with another win tonight. We knew it was going to be a tough game. They’re a great team, Japan, they challenge you in different ways.

“We knew it wouldn’t be until the third or fourth quarter until we could potentially pull away a bit. I’m just over the moon to get another win. Some improvements tonight, some things to get better at still.”

England captain Lawes added:¬†“Full credit to Japan. We knew they were going to put up a fight and they certainly did that. The conditions are probably not as good as they look. It’s so greasy out there. The boys did well, we came away with five points so you can’t ask for much more.”

As for Marler’s ‘assist’, Lawes said:¬†“I thanked him. A bit of luck – sometimes it falls in your favour. I’ll take it.”

With England now having two wins from two games, head coach Steve Borthwick said: “I’m really pleased for the players. I’m really pleased for the supporters here tonight. We’ve got a fantastic travelling support and they spend an awful lot of money to follow this team and we want to make sure they have good nights.

“Tonight it was really tough, we got a bonus point so we’re really pleased with that.”

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph said: “Really proud of my team. We created a lot of opportunities, we just made too many mistakes. England put us under a lot pressure but there were times in the first 16 minutes it was a real arm-wrestle ‚Äď we just needed to capitalise on those opportunities and we weren‚Äôt quite able to.”

Captain Kazuki Himeno said: “I believe that we gave it part of what we planned to do but in the second half we had the unfortunate luck which gave up a try and allowed them to score more.

“We will need to take what we did well in terms of creating our game and put it into the second half. That was on one of the takeaways for us and needs improving. Tough games will continue so we need to completely improve that point.” – WORLD RUGBY

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