Group stage progress is first target after 2015 nightmare, insists Daly

England begin their World Cup campaign against Tonga on Sunday.

By Press Association Published: 19 September 2019 - 7.20am


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Elliot Daly insists England’s first World Cup target must be getting beyond the group phase following their dismal campaign in 2015.

In the worst performance by a host nation, England failed to reach the quarter-finals following successive defeats to Wales and Australia which ultimately led to the dismissal of Stuart Lancaster.

While not as daunting as four years ago, the pool stage at Japan 2019 is still formidable with Tonga providing hard-hitting opening opponents in Sapporo on Sunday before pivotal clashes against Argentina and France unfold on successive weekends.

England endured a nightmare 2015 World Cup under Stuart Lancaster
England endured a nightmare 2015 World Cup under Stuart Lancaster (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Daly made his England debut in 2016, but the dire showing four years ago has been discussed within Eddie Jones’ squad.

“Everyone wants to win the World Cup, but for us it’s just important to get out of the pool well,” Daly said.

“We’ve got USA and Tonga to start and then Argentina and France, so they’re our main focus.

“We need to perform well in that opening game to get off to a good start and then we can see what happens after that.

“We’re in a good place because of the way we’ve conditioned ourselves, not only physically but also mentally in terms of knowing what this World Cup will be like.

“We’ve talked about things that could happen at the World Cup. We haven’t played a game yet though so it will be interesting to see what happens on Sunday and then we’ll go from there.”

Jones names his teams to face Tonga early on Friday morning with Daly set to be included in the 23, most likely as starting full-back.

It is a position the Saracens-bound 26-year-old has filled for 15 successive Tests with only Anthony Watson interrupting that sequence for the rout of Italy 48 hours before England departed for Japan.

Daly, who was rested for the St James’ Park send-off, also covers outside-centre and wing but Jones views the 15 jersey as the best platform from which to launch his speed, footwork and attacking vision.

“I want to play to the best of my ability. This World Cup has been three years in the making for me because I played my first England game in 2016,” Daly said.

“I’ve always seen the World Cup as a target and want to perform to the best of my ability in it.

“Wherever that takes me…as long as I know I’ve done my best in every game I can hold my head up.”

Mako Vunipola is unavailable for the match against Tonga
Mako Vunipola is unavailable for the match against Tonga (Adam Davy/PA)

Defence coach John Mitchell has revealed that only wing Jack Nowell and prop Mako Vunipola are unavailable for selection.

Nowell has an ankle issue and Vunipola a hamstring problem but both should be fit for the decisive stage of the group phase.

The knee injuries carried by wing Joe Cokanasiga and flanker Mark Wilson have cleared up, putting them in contention against Tonga.