Rugby-England hope to avoid repeat of soccer team's Nice disaster

Rugby World Cup 2023 - Pool D - England v Argentina

By Mitch Phillips

NICE, France (Reuters) - England face Japan in the Rugby World Cup in Nice on Sunday hoping to avoid any sort of repeat of one of the country's lowest sporting moments when the national soccer team were humbled in the city by Iceland at the 2016 Euros.

Seven years ago the Stade de Nice reverberated to the deafening synchronised "Viking thunderclap" of the Iceland supporters - and the jeers and whistles of the England fans - as the rank outsiders pulled off one of the all-time shocks by beating England 2-1 in the last 16.

The footballing disaster was the final act for manager Roy Hodgson, paving the way for Gareth Southgate to start the rebuilding job that took England to a World Cup semi-final and a penalty shoot-out final defeat in the last Euros.

England's rugby team had gone through a similar process eight months earlier as their pool-stage exit from their own World Cup in 2015 after Twickenham defeats to Wales and Australia spelled the end for Stuart Lancaster.

So when Iceland were humbling Wayne Rooney's sorry side, England's rugby team were on the other side of the world, having just claimed a hugely impressive 3-0 series win over Australia that appeared to emphatically establish new coach Eddie Jones's credentials.

It was a brilliant performance and, coming on the back of a Six Nations title earlier in the year, there was huge confidence surging through the England set-up.

They lost their way somewhat in the next couple of years, though surged back superbly at the 2019 World Cup with their extraordinarily overwhelming victory over New Zealand in the semi-finals before losing to South Africa in the final.

That could well be their route again this year as, after the opening win over Argentina, their place in the quarter-finals against Australia, Fiji or Wales already looks assured.

Japan, of course, have their own proud record of upsets. Under Jones they famously shocked the Springboks in the 2015 pool stages then played incredible rugby to beat Ireland and Scotland on home soil four years ago to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

They have struggled though to reproduce anything like that form since though and the chances of another shock look slim - even in Nice.

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Christian Radnedge)