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Revitalised England revel in another Marseille moment

MARSEILLE, France - In Marseille 16 years ago England delivered one of the most astounding turnarounds in their history to put them back on course for the World Cup final, and Saturday's extraordinary 27-10 win over Argentina in the same stadium had a similar feel.

In 2007 the then-world champions had been humiliated 36-0 by South Africa in the pool stage and were being hammered from every quarter but bounced back to shock Australia in the quarter-finals, before going on to narrowly lose to the Springboks in the final.

The current team arrived in France having lost six of their last nine games, leaking three tries a match and looking utterly bereft of ideas in attack.

When they had Tom Curry sent off after three minutes on Saturday their long-suffering fans must have feared the worst against an Argentina team who triumphed at Twickenham a year ago and were full of confidence.

Perhaps it was the fact that they are getting all-too used to playing with 14 men, this being their fourth red card in the last six games, but England not only took the setback in their stride but were energised to a level of intensity perhaps not seen since their semi-final victory over New Zealand four years ago.

Flyhalf George Ford took the headlines with a faultless kicking display, landing six penalties and three drop-goals that had the fans in a frenzy, but all around him players who have been struggling for form for eons, suddenly reminded everyone how good they could be.

Centre Manu Tuilagi, lock Maro Itoje, emergency number Eight Ben Earl and captain Courtney Lawes were all immense as they battered the Pumas again and again, barely allowing them across the halfway line and earning Ford repeated opportunities to keep the scoreboard turning, which he expertly took.

Prop Dan Cole, whose last World Cup experience was to be on the wrong end of South Africa's demolition job in the 2019 final, also silenced the many doubters with a brilliant display against the fabled Puma scrum and left the field to a massive ovation from the England fans.

"Obviously a really good performance," said Lawes, captaining the team in the absence of the suspended Owen Farrell, who faces a considerable challenge to regain his place.

"You saw today how much it meant to us. We've not been performing, we know that, but today defensively was unbelievable.

"I think you could tell the intensity we came out with, we wanted to shock Argentina, we knew we could and that just continued throughout the game. We were just prepared for everything. (The red card) was pretty much worst-case scenario and we were ready for it and we dug in.

Coach Steve Borthwick had been quietly promising that his players would deliver once they got in France and was delighted that his experienced men stepped up to the challenge.

"Tonight was another example of the great leadership within the team," he said. "I see a group that is packed full with senior pros who are fantastic leaders.

"Our effort, our intent, especially in defence, and the set piece that enabled us to really put some points on the board. George was magnificent. We can talk about his kicking, scoring the points, but he showed great composure and management throughout." REUTERS