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This time the dismissed player was Argentina’s Tomas Lavanini. Argentina had started well in the heat and humidity of Tokyo. But once the Puma lock was dismissed, England were in complete control.
They ran in six tries in a performance inspired by the here, there and everywhere style of Jonny May, with successful returns for Mako Vunipola and Jack Nowell. But the big talking point came late in the first quarter when Lavanini levelled England captain Owen Farrell with a shoulder to the head.
The incident sucked the life out of the game – one that saw Billy Vunipola alarmingly limp out with an ankle injury at half-time – and though England are still a long way from hitting top gear, the performance was enough to guarantee that Eddie Jones’s side will still be in Japan when the knockout stages begin after next week’s final Pool C game with France.
After 2015’s pool-stage exit humiliation, it is the least this squad owes its fans.
There is a certain irony that two of the five red cards shown at this tournament have been produced for tackles on Farrell, when the fly-half has caused so much controversy himself for his tackling technique, to the point the England defence coach confirmed pre-tournament that the captain has been forced to change his approach in order to protect himself.
But that doesn’t protect him from what the opposition throws his way. And, for the second time in nine days, he was on the end of a red-card challenge. Lavanini will get to know Farrell much better after the World Cup as he is due to join Leicester Tigers in the Premiership. Unfortunately he will now meet his new teammates much sooner than planned.
Lavanini can have few complaints about his tackle on Farrell, particularly given that it comes a week after he was lucky to escape action for a shoulder charge on Tonga’s Sione Kalamafoni – one of his soon-to-be
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