Alex Mitchell ready to continue World Cup rollercoaster ride in England’s opener

By Sports Desk September 08, 2023

Alex Mitchell is ready to continue riding his World Cup rollercoaster after being entrusted with the scrum-half duties for England’s critical opener against Argentina.

Mitchell starts Saturday’s showdown at the Stade Velodrome despite being overlooked for Steve Borthwick’s 41-man training squad named in late June, an omission that enabled him to take a week’s holiday in Hvar in Croatia.

But the stars aligned for England’s most dangerous running nine when Jack van Poortvliet went down with a tournament-ending ankle injury against Wales at Twickenham last month.

Van Poortvliet’s misfortune offered his route back into the squad and when asked to start against Fiji, Mitchell seized the opportunity by emerging as one of the few bright sparks on an otherwise gloomy afternoon.

The 26-year-old now starts England’s biggest game since the 2019 World Cup final ahead of veterans Danny Care and Ben Youngs with the aim of bringing a misfiring attack to life.

“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster – out of the squad, then back in and now getting a shot against Argentina,” Mitchell said.

“I stayed fit and stayed ready and then got called to come in. I trained hard and tried to put my hand up again.

“I had one week off in Croatia, which was nice, just to reset the batteries. That was a couple of months ago now, so it was nice to get away and relax.

“I’m massively excited to be getting an opportunity to play and putting my hand up. It’s all been a bit weird but I’m excited.

 

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“As a kid it’s a thing you dream of, playing at the top of the game, and the World Cup is that.

 

“To start the first World Cup game is a massive honour – my family are massively proud of me. I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully we can get a result.”

Mitchell was a regular fixture in England training squads under Eddie Jones before being used as a dynamic replacement by Borthwick during the recent Six Nations, so it came as a shock when he was deemed surplus to requirements for the World Cup.

The Saints half-back had to wait until the Fiji match a fortnight ago to make his first start in six caps as his patience finally paid off.

“You appreciate you’re in a really good position. You’re still getting paid to play the sport you love and you are not far off,” he said.

“The whole time you’re not far off, you’re in and out of camp so you’re getting opportunities. You have just got to keep your head up and that’s what I focused on.”

Mitchell’s elevation to a central role in the main event of Pool D has come at a difficult time for England, who are reeling from five defeats in six Tests.

“I’ve got to try and control the game, get the team to tick and when I can imprint some tempo into the side. I’ll try and do that, but stick to the game-plan,” he said.

“We know we’re a good side when we play well and stick to our style of play. The main thing is to do that and try to bring our X-Factor alive after that, if you can.”

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