'Sheer accident': English media reacts to Tom Curry's red card in Rugby World Cup win over Argentina
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Former England coach Sir Clive Woodward says rugby is moving to a dangerous area if Tom Curry’s controversial dismissal is considered a red card.  

Woodward, who won the 2003 World Cup with England in Australia, said the English loose forward was sent off for “a sheer accident” after a head clash with Juan Cruz Mallía in their 27-10 win over Argentina in their Rugby World Cup opener on Sunday (NZ time).

Curry’s red card – issued in the 11th minute after a bunker review upgraded it from a yellow – was England’s first in the men’s World Cup and also the quickest in the tournament’s history.

Woodward’s reaction was echoed throughout the English media, who also praised the response of Steve Borthwick’s side after beating the woeful Pumas while playing with 14 men for 77 minutes in Marseille.

Argentina were also down to 14 for 10 minutes in the first half after first five-eighth Santiago Carreras was sinbinned in the ninth minute for a late hit on counterpart George Ford, who was credited for a masterful performance reminiscent of English great Jonny Wilkinson, kicking all 27 of their points.

Woodward said Curry and Carreras’ attempts to tackle were mistakes, but he felt sorry for the English No 7.

“There is no way I can see that being a red card, and I think the game is moving in very dangerous areas where that’s not a malicious tackle and it is a sheer accident,” Woodward said on British broadcaster ITV.

“Yellow fine as there was a clash of heads, but it’s not a red card in any shape or form.”

Curry collided heads with the descending Mallía after the Pumas fullback claimed a high ball. Coming to ground, his head smacked into Curry’s, who was yellow-carded before the bunker told French referee Mathieu Raynal to issue a red card.

Former England No 8 Lawrence Dallaglio tweeted: “Harsh red card for Tom Curry but what a response.”

It didn’t cost England, however.

Stephen Jones of The Times said their “nightmare is over, perhaps only for one game or perhaps for longer”.

England’s results have been poor since Borthwick replaced Eddie Jones as coach this year and neither Owen Farrell nor Billy Vunipola were available for their opening match because of bans for high tackles in World Cup warm-up tests.

“England were able to erase Argentina almost totally from the game in the part-crazy city of Marseille. They won not so much at a canter, because that would be to devalue their fantastic work ethic, honesty and defending and also the outstanding marshalling and kicking of George Ford at fly half. Ford kicked all the points for England and was masterly, in particular when he kicked three superb drop-goals in the second quarter,” Jones wrote.

“England were reduced to 14 men for the match when Tom Curry was sent off for an offence that would not even have attracted a penalty in the past – but that is not to decry the new sanctions.”

Rob Kitson of the Guardian said England gave their long-suffering fans “something to cherish” after they were destined for more hardship once Curry was controversially sent off.

“The Rugby World Cup in France is only a couple of days old but it will take something extra special in the weeks ahead to eclipse this effort in terms of backs-to-the-wall resilience and good old-fashioned bulldog spirit,” Kitson wrote.

“England also had George Ford, who in terms of shaping a test match enjoyed the most satisfying big game of his career. The Sale fly-half was world junior player of the year in his youth but here, on the ultimate stage, he surpassed that achievement by scoring all his side’s points in a kicking performance even Jonny Wilkinson would have found hard to match.”

Nik Simon of the Daily Mail wrote that Ford’s performance was one Wilkinson would be proud of.

“Three, six, nine. Bang, bang, bang. He was practising his drop goals before kick off and boy did it pay off. After Tom Curry was shown a red card in the fourth minute, Ford hit three in quick succession to put England on course for one of their biggest, ugliest victories. It is not going to win any beauty pageants but Steve Borthwick could not care less,” Simon wrote.

“This was a show of guts, intelligence and English pride. It was a chess match where the pieces came to life as 100 kilo men. A masterclass from the fly-half who, defiant in the face of adversity, proved that’s England’s show of confidence through the week was not just idle chatter.”

Former England halfback Matt Dawson said on BBC Sport that England “are in a prime position” ahead of pool matches against Japan, Chile and Samoa.

“It is going to give them enormous confidence, it is a lovely build up for Japan and a lot of this team will play against them,” he said.

“Get into those quarter-finals, not that England are going to be favourites. But other teams around France are going to be thinking maybe England have got something in the locker.

“It has sent a message to not discount us.”