After losing to South Africa in the last World Cup Final held in Japan in 2019, England will be hoping to go one better in France this time. However, even as an England supporter, would not like to take a bet on that, based on their current performance. The “friendly” against Wales in Cardiff at the start of August was a diabolical performance by England – a total lack of cohesion as a team. And it got no better in the following two matches, with lack of discipline.  Head Coach Steve Borthwick has spoken of trying to simplify things – and together with Captain Owen Farrell, have been focusing players to “want the ball”.

The final team selection for this World Cup caused more than a few raised eyebrows and many mutterings into pints at pubs across the country. Do hope that I am proved wrong when the team takes to the pitch against Argentina in their first match in Marseilles – but for now, on the pitch in comparison on the team sheet,  it looks like a team devoid of imagination or even inspiration. The omission of Henry Slade is bizarre, but Borthwick does not seem to have to have chosen a team that could play with verve and flair – why not be a bit more visionary with players such as Tom Pearson, Zach Mercer or Sam Simmonds? However, fingers crossed for England, that this rugby fan is proven wrong and there exists more of a plan than Borthwick, (who is a good coach with a proven history at club level as well as a player), is sharing on the pitch right now in the lead up.

England are in Pool D – and that’s good news for them with matches in the knockout rounds of Japan, Argentina, Samoa and Chile. But no time for complacency (especially after THAT recent match against Fiji) – the Blossoms are indefatigable in their efforts, Los Pumas always play with an exciting free running style, Manu Samoa are back after missing out on the last three world cups and hungry for a win, with three ex All Blacks in their side , whilst Chile, although perhaps the wild card in the pack as an emerging Rugby Nation in their first World Cup, have the super experienced Pablo Lemoine as Head Coach.

Captain: Owen Farrell (well at time of posting this article but who knows!)

Player to Watch: Henry Arundell will provide a dash of magic amongst the kicking game!

For more information on England Rugby – www.englandrugby.com

For full details follow: www.rugbyworldcup.com

What to Eat & Drink whilst watching England

Food:  As food to watch the match with should be simple to hold and good to eat, there is one Classic for this Rugby World Cup – so despite the lack of Exeter players in the squad, nothing better than Cornish pasties!  There are all sorts of variations kicking around but the traditional cannot be beaten. They are relatively easy to make at home, but otherwise just get Ann to send you some of her fabulous pasties ready for you to cook at home! www.annspasties.co.uk

Or why not take inspiration from a traditional English Roast as nibbles for match day? Roast potatoes always taste best when sneaked from the dish in the kitchen after lunch, so why not do a huge bowl – and let people dig in – suggest you get some smoked salt to sprinkle on top www.cornishseasalt.co.uk

Make (or buy – see Auntie Bessie in freezer section!) mini Yorkshire puddings – chop up some thickly sliced roast beef- pour in small amount of gravy into Yorkie,  top with beef square and horseradish – perfect finger food!

Or a great all English Cheeseboard (to show Les Bleus that England has a better variety of cheese!).  There are so many amazing independent cheesemakers in England that you can put together a board with soft, hard, flavoured, blue, goats – everything. If you are lucky enough to be near one of their stores then head to the brilliant – www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk otherwise look on line at www.finecheese.co.uk

Top cheeses to look out for are: Stichelton (unpasteurised version of stilton), Kirkham Lancashire (wonderfully crumbly) , Shropshire Blue (for a burst of colour & taste),  Tunworth (camembert like from Hampshire), Wyfe of Bath (Gouda like from guess where!), Cornish Yarg (wrapped in nettles)  and  of course the pungent Stinking Bishop (read the story of this iconic cheese at www.charlesmartell.com

English Charcuterie is getting some well-deserved recognition from food writers, chefs and even Italian journalists! A sharing platter of cured meats such as the award wining chestnut smoked Coppa from www.tempusfoods.com , from Dorset the brilliant www.capreolusfinefoods.co.uk for their New Forest Pannage Ham or Dorset Bresaola from www.therealcure.co.uk

For a fishier option, try the delicious smoked haddock from  www.wealdsmokery.co.uk  – it is delicious flaked into cheese sauce as a piscine cheese on toast! (actually do check out all of their smoked products including smoked Goodweald cheese) 


Beer:  There are so many UK real ales, that most Rugby lovers are better equipped than I to choose their own beer for this section – but a few to try out:

Loose Cannon Brewery –www.lcbeers.co.uk    

Adnams Brewery – awww.adnams.co.uk/beer   

Palmers Brewery (established 1794!) www.palmersbrewery.com  

Coniston Brewing Company – www.conistonbrewery.com

For a good selection to order online – www.bestofbritishbeer.co.uk

Cider: Of course we produce some of the best West Country cider – which is great to pair with the Pasties – look out for the single varietals (and even Rose version) from The Newt in Somerset – www.thenewtinsomerset.com/cyder

Wine:  The English Wine scene is thriving – and it’s not just all Sparkling! There is a great array of still whites such as Pinot Blanc and some surprisingly delicious Pinot Noirs in the red camp. Close to where I live in the South Downs, we seem to be surrounded by an increasing tide of new vineyard plantings – even the French Champagne makers are looking at buying more land this side of the channel – following in steps of Pommery and Taittinger who already have vineyards in Kent & Hampshire. 

From vineyards close to Marlow, Harrow & Hope produce outstanding fine sparkling wines – for an aperitif start off with their enticing Brut Reserve but also pick up a couple of bottles of their seductive Blanc de Blancs as well – www.harrowandhope.com

For something a little different on the fizz front, do chill a bottle of the Ambriel English Reserve. It’s a Demi Sec, but you don’t feel sweetness just complexity of flavour – and its heavenly with blue cheese! www.ambrielsparkling.com

Madeleine Angevine is a lesser known but charming white variety – when it’s made as well as at Danebury in Hampshire with lovely floral and citrus notes www.danebury.com

Stopham Vineyards in Sussex make very food friendly still white wines – including their enticing Pinot Banc and more aromatic Pinot Gris (the latter ideal if you’re having a match day Thai curry!) www.stophamvineyard.co.uk

Chapel Down, a leading Kent producer make a range from good value crowd pleasing Bacchus to their Single Vineyard Chardonnay, Kit’s Coty. www.chapeldown.com

For the Rosé lovers – search out Railway Hill Rosé from Simpsons, on the North Downs. Evocative scent of English summers (when the sun shines!), it’s delightful – and comes in a covetable reusable bottle (Advice – always put 2nd bottle in fridge when you open the 1st!). www.simpsonswine.com

Essex is perhaps not the county that springs to mind when thinking about vineyards, but it is the source of some of the most impressive grapes in England – especially Pinot Noir as seen in the brilliant example from www.danburyridge.com. Not the cheapest option at just over £30, but worth it – and especially if England make it through to the final!

Lyme Bay Winery produce a fabulous award-winning Pinot Noir – lots of dark fruit, but lots of zingy fresh acidity that makes it such a great match with the charcuterie boards. www.lymebaywinery.co.uk

For all English wines mentioned above, do call direct for local stockists or else they will happily send direct from the vineyard. Alternatively if you’re looking for some advice on a mixed case – call Matt at www.grapebritannia.co.uk or Simon at www.hawkinsbros.co.uk – both of whom specialise in English Wines. 

If you need something stronger to sip whilst dissecting the match afterwards, questioning the ref’s decisions and all that – then do get in a bottle of Somerset Brandy – the Pomona (blend of apple juice & cider brandy aged in barrel)  is especially smooth – www.ciderbrandy.co.uk

National Drink:  The coffee invasion has been retreating over the last year or so and some wonderful Tea Houses with loose leaf tea have been springing up to reaffirm that our national drink is indeed still tea.  So, for something different for the designated driver on match day – get hold of some English Tea grown in Cornwall www.tregothnan.co.uk

PS – if you’d like to read more about English Wine – paired with a host of independent artisan products such as irresistible cheeses and pork pies – as well as matching recipes – pick up a copy of my book Watercress, Willow, and Wine. Shortlisted for the 2023 Fortnum & Mason’s Book Awards – available from all good bookshops, on www.lovewinefood.com and online. ISBN : 9781913532864 

 For more information on English Wine – visit Wine GB –  www.winegb.co.uk