Rugby World Cup 2019: Wales denied top world ranking spot after defeat to England

An experimental England have denied Wales the chance to take hold of the number-one spot the World Rugby rankings, with their 33-19 victory at Twickenham.

A Wales win would have seen them overtake the All Blacks as the best test nation in the world, but New Zealand will remain atop the pile for now.  

England's squad featured only a handful of regular first-choice starters, but overpowered Wales, thanks to tries from Billy Vunipola, Joe Cokanasiga and Luke Cowan-Dickie, as well as flawless kicking from first-five George Ford.

The visiting Grand Slam winners struggled for attacking cohesion throughout, despite tries for Gareth Davies, George North and Alun Wyn Jones, and compounded their woes with an injury to New Zealand-born playmaker Gareth Anscombe.

Wales have not won at Twickenham since the last World Cup and never looked like ending that run, spoiling the occasion of skipper Alun Wyn Jones becoming his nation's most capped player.

"We probably came out of the blocks a bit slow," said Jones. "You're always wary of that first 20 minutes, whether international or domestic.

"We're professionals. You can't say you're rusty coming off the break.

"We're well aware where we let ourselves down in that first half. We've got another opportunity next week.

"This is the first one on the journey this season.

Debutant halfback Willi Heinz was among several fringe England players that advanced their claims for inclusion in the World Cup squad that Eddie Jones will name on Tuesday (NZ time). 

England play three more warm-up matches - away to Wales, and at home against Ireland and Italy - before heading to Japan, where they kick off their campaign against Pool C opponents Tonga on September 22.

England's only concerns from the game will be the fitness of flanker Tom Curry, who impressed before limping off early, and their habit of conceding clusters of penalties.

Meanwhile, Wales will need to regroup for the return fixture in Cardiff on Saturday, and work out how a defence that only conceded seven tries in the whole Six Nations and rarely left gaps was pierced so regularly by England.

Wales mentor Warren Gatland promised Wales would up their game next weekend.

"England went back to traditionally what they're good at," the New Zealander said.

"The scrum was good, the driven line-out was good. They played it fairly tightly, but we'll have a look at our approach for next week.

"Any loss is disappointing, but this is not our competition face. There were a few too many turnovers.

"We will be a lot better next week."

The two sides could face each other in the World Cup quarter-finals in October.


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