Ben Youngs spared English blushes with a late try as the 2003 champions scraped by Argentina in an unimpressive 13-9 win.
In a performance that will bring back memories of their poor start against America at the 2007 world cup, nothing seemed to work for Martin Johnson’s side.
Johnny Wilkinson missed five successive kicks before converting Youngs’ try to give England the lead with 13 minutes left.
Overall it was a turgid display with the English giving away eight penalties in the first half and should have been out of the game but for Argentina’s equally poor performance in front of the posts with Felipe Contepomi and Martin Rodriguez sharing kicking duties the Pumas lead by only 6-3 at half time.
Argentina were the better side overall, storming the English at the breakdown and putting the Europeans on the back foot for the opening ten minutes.
England lacked any passing creativity until Youngs was brought on from the bench with half an hour left and Johnson admitted that the performance was below par with England’s superior fitness telling in the end.
It’s not a fantastic performance by any means, but it’s a fantastic win in the circumstances”, the manager said.
“I always thought if we kept on going, we’d tire them out.”