Saracens Maro Itoje believes England took a step forward in turning their poor form around after beating Argentina 27-10 in their opening 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool D fixture in Marseille, writes Ziad Chaudry.

Fly-half George Ford scored all 27 of England’s points - six penalties and three drop goals - despite his side playing the majority of the match with only 14 men after Tom Curry’s dismissal.

And Camden-born Itoje, 28, was impressed with Ford’s kicking performance, saying: “It’s unbelievable. He was great with the boot. He controlled the game beautifully I think. 

“On the team’s performance in general it inspired during the last couple of games about we know the quality of the team, we know the quality of the individuals. I think we took a step forward."

Sale Sharks flanker Curry was shown a yellow card and sent to the sin-bin after three minutes for a high tackle on Juan Cruz Mallía, resulting in a head clash. However, after Emiliano Boffelli converted the penalty a bunker review upgraded Curry's card to red.

Jamie George played alongside clubmates Itoje, Ben Earl, Elliot Daly and Theo Dan, while Lucio Cinti and Juan Martin Gonzalez, who both signed for the Hendon-based club during the summer from recently defunct London Irish, appeared for the Pumas.

And 32-year-old hooker George was impressed with the way England dealt with the situation of being a player down.

“You know how hard it is to play with 14 men,” he told ITV Sport. “We made it hard for ourselves. I feel for Tom (Curry) in that situation, but the way we rallied round it, we showed a lot of character.”

The win was a huge relief for England head coach Steve Borthwick, the former Sarries lock who had seen his side lose five of their six previous matches, including a shock 30-22 defeat to Fiji in their final World Cup warm-up at Twickenham two weeks ago.

Many critics and fans have already cast doubts over England’s chances of lifting their second Rugby World Cup title, but Borthwick, who spent 10 years at Saracens, insists his team should never be written off.

“There was a sense I’ve had from the players that they feel they have been written off just a little bit too early,” he told ITV Sport.

“And what I see is a really quality group of players.”

Borthwick’s troops face Japan in Nice on Sunday, after the Cherry Blossoms opened their campaign with an easy 42-12 victory over tournament debutants Chile in Toulouse. 

Saracens' Nick Tompkins played an exceptional role in Wales thrilling 32-26 Pool C victory over Fiji, who had Eroni Mawi in their line-up, in the wine city of Bordeaux. 

Wales next face Portugal in Nice this Saturday while Fiji face Eddie Jones’s Australia, who beat Georgia 35-15 in their opener, this Sunday in Saint-Etienne.

Marco Riccioni featured in Italy’s convincing 52-8 win over Namibia in Pool A and face Uruguay on September 20.

*Saracens suffered a surprise 28-14 defeat at Championship outfit Coventry in the opening round of newly revamped Premiership Rugby Cup on Saturday.

A club record attendance of 4,109 at Butts Park Arena saw Ryan Hurtler and Patrick Pellegrini score second-half tries to secure a stunning victory for the hosts, after Ben Harris scored two converted tries in the first half for Saracens.

Sarries host Gloucester at StoneX Stadium on Saturday (2pm), with tickets available at