NICE, France -- England are using the ruthless nature of the 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning side as inspiration as they build their own charge in France 20 years on.
England are two from two having defeated Argentina 27-10 and Japan 34-12. Both matches saw England play pragmatic rugby, but it's worked, with Steve Borthwick's side winning nine points from a possible 10 across the opening two rounds.
Their latest win came against Japan on Sunday in Nice. After a slow start, England accelerated in the final 20 to secure the four-try bonus point. At one stage though, supporter frustration grew to the extent there were boos when one box kick went dead. But the 2023 crop aren't concerned about outside perception of how they're winning the matches.
"Why do you have to finesse it? You've just got to win, haven't you? What did England do 20 years ago? They found a way to win in the World Cup," prop Joe Marler said. "We'll keep trying and taking the lessons from each game. We'll take the lessons and we'll keep trying to finesse.
"Ultimately it's about the win. We're not getting ahead of ourselves at all. You'll get the same boring cliché from me that we'll take one game at a time. We'll rest up and then play a padel (Mexican paddle sport) tournament and then we'll look to Chile on Tuesday."
Marler said the 2003 crop finessed their own style and it worked, as they became the only northern hemisphere side to date to win the Rugby World Cup. And he also points to how the Springboks won the last men's tournament in 2019 as a lesson in ruthlessness.
"You talk about style of play, don't you? A lot of people do, especially you lot [the media]. [The 2003 group] went a couple of phases, Jonny [Wilkinson] slotted some penalties and some drop goals.
"They won ugly, a lot of that tournament when won ugly but we don't talk about that now do we? We talk about them winning the World Cup. You forget about how you did it. You don't talk about South Africa getting pumped in the first game against New Zealand, you talk about them pumping us in the final and then lifting the trophy."
Marler is also hoping the team continues to evolve, with Chile next up in Lille on Saturday.
"I'd love to be that team," Marler said. "I'd love to be that team that we build and build and build when you are peaking. I'd love us to go and win the World Cup. That's why we're here.
"But we will have to just concentrate on taking the lessons, learning from them, and trying to improve, and keep building on that team building and taking one game at a time."
Marler started against Japan and played a key role in England's second try, a fortuitous effort from Courtney Lawes in the 56th minute. The build-up to the try saw a handling error from Will Stuart divert the ball onto Marler's head. The ball bounced off his head and found its way to Lawes who ran in under the posts. Marler joked that he's been taking inspiration from Brighton, the team his son supports.
"Well it's just what I've been practising for, these moments," Marler said. "I've been practising today with Dan Cole and Jamie George in activation. I took great inspiration from Roberto De Zerbi's mighty Seagulls doing a demolition job on United, which is my son's team. Four Premier League wins in a row over Manchester United. Only three teams in Premier League history have done that. Brighton, Man City, Liverpool.
"But we've won nothing yet, guys, which is quite apt because it brings it back to us because we've won nothing yet. We've had two good victories, won in different circumstances, and we're onto the next."