Cheika’s fury returns as England hang on against Argentina to win RWC bronze medal

Almost 12 months after bidding farewell to Eddie Jones, England is bronze medallists.

Steve Borthwick’s side won an engrossing encounter against Michael Cheika’s Argentine Pumas 26-23 at the Stade de France.

Usually bronze medal matches are snooze fests with little meaning and even less atmosphere.

Try telling Cheika’s Pumas.

Trailing 16-10 at half-time, Cheika laid down the law at half-time as he finally unleashed his inner passion after previously restraining himself in front of the passionate South Americans.

Ben Earl scored England’s first try after barging over out wide against Argentina during their bronze medal win at the Stade de France in Paris. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

His fiery half-time address, which brought back memories of his explosive talk to the Wallabies when they overturned a match that looked lost in Salta, looked like it had worked a treat as Santiago Carreras sliced through and scored in the opening minutes to give Los Pumas a 17-16 lead.

But less than two minutes later England hit back via a Theo Dan charge down and England never looked back.

Argentina had one late chance to steal the match, but instead of kicking for the five-metre line they turned to veteran playmaker Nicolas Sanchez to try and level up the match out wide. The move backfired, as Sanchez, Argentina’s highest point scorer, missed.

They didn’t get another chance, as England’s experience allowed them to run down the clock before booting the ball into touch.

“It was a very tight game, wasn’t it?” England’s first-year head coach Steve Borthwick said.

“It wasn’t a game of incredible high quality but it was a game of high tension and a game of fine margins; two teams that wanted to find a way to get the win.

“Immense credit to Argentina for the way they played tonight and the way they’ve gone through the tournament. Whilst tonight wasn’t a classic, it was a tight affair.”

Michael Cheika could have coached his last game for Argentina at Stade de France on October 27, 2023 in Paris. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The evening brought the curtain down on veteran halfback Ben Youngs’ career, while others like his former long-term halves partner Danny Care has likely played his last Test for England too. Ditto Dan Cole, the veteran tight-head prop, who made a return under Borthwick.

Whether it was Cheika’s last Test in charge of Los Pumas remains to be seen.

The off-contract Australian coach is likely to call time on his tenure with Argentina, having taking over from Mario Ledesma last year.

With Jones’ future with the Wallabies in serious doubt beyond this year, Cheika, the 2015 World Rugby coach of the year who led Australia to two World Cups, could yet rocket back into calculation.

While Argentina never threatened during their semi-final against the All Blacks, a narrow three-point loss in the bronze medal match is nothing to sneeze about.

Los Pumas captain Julian Montoya was giving nothing away about Cheika’s future.

“We don’t know if it’s his last game, so I’m not going to talk about that. He never said that it was his last game, so there’s nothing I can say about that,” Montoya said.

More to come.

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