Rugby World Cup Permutations: England

Continuing our series of articles looking at each team’s likely route through the Rugby World Cup, we turn to England and the teams they will face. The image below might serve as a timely reminder if you’re in danger of getting too carried away.

Shontayne Hape

England’s Rugby World Cup Fixtures
Saturday 10th September, England v Argentina, Dunedin
Sunday 18th September, England v Georgia, Dunedin
Saturday 24th September, England v Romania, Dunedin
Saturday 1st October, England v Scotland, Auckland

The draw could not have been much kinder to Martin Johnson’s side. Argentina was one of the top four seeds when the draw was made according to the IRB rankings, and for England to avoid New Zealand, Australia and South Africa is very lucky indeed.

It’s still not an easy pool though, and both the Pumas and the Scots will cause England problems in the group stages. The first game is critical for England: beat Argentina, and they’ll be able to build momentum before the showdown with Scotland. A defeat on day 1 would be disastrous, and probably leave them needing to beat Scotland to qualify as runners-up.

The winners of this Pool (Pool B) will take on the runners-up in Pool A, which is likely to be France. The runners-up in this pool will play the winners of Pool A and a near-certain exit at the hands of New Zealand, which makes an unbeaten start all the more important.

England is the favourite to progress as pool winner, and France should hold no fears in the quarter-finals – they have a good record over the French in World Cups, and would fancy their chances of reaching the semis.

Again, there are several permutations for who they would face at this stage if they do overcome the French, but the odds suggest it would be Australia or Ireland. The good news is that it’s very unlikely to be South Africa or New Zealand, against whom England have had less success, which means another World Cup final is not out of the question – largely down to the luck of the draw.


How far do you think England will get in this year’s Rugby World Cup? Take the poll below and justify your selection in the comments below:

How far will England get in the Rugby World Cup 2011?

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24 thoughts on “Rugby World Cup Permutations: England

  1. Everyone knows AB are clearly best team and favourites on form. But it is also no secret that they choke under pressure. No one would want to face them in a knock out game, esp @ 1/4 final stage. But all im saying is it isn’t a done deal if we do get them either because we are runners up (or they are. There is an assumption in this article that NZ will win their group… AB record against the French anyone?). Going in as an under dog is no bad thing when all pressure on AB to progress

    I wouldn’t bet my mortgage on it – but history has shown us that upsets happen in WC rugby…and often against the Kiwis…

  2. The article does assume that the All Blacks will win their group, and I think they will. Their World Cup record against the French isn’t great as you say, but I think meeting them in the group stages where it’s not quite do or die will help them.

    England’s record against them in World Cups is not good, although the two teams haven’t met since 1999, and in my view England are not the sort of team that the Kiwis would choke against. Although predicting a New Zealand choke is not easy either.

    The best bet is to win the group and hopefully steer clear…then they have as good a draw as they could have hoped for.

  3. Over the past two tournaments England have shown that they can be gritty and strangle out games during the knock-out stages. They may not have been pretty to watch but their wins over Australia and then France in 2007 indicated that often in the World Cup it is as much about frame of mind and choosing tactics wisely as it is about how much talent it spread across the side. England need to use certain players for certain jobs. If Johnson picks Hape and Tindall in the centres (as is expected, much to the malign of fans everywhere!) they need to be used as a defensive barrier more than anything else while Flood needs to act as a pivot in attack, allowing the likes of Ashton, Foden and Cueto to come into the middle of the field and cause havoc. If this happens they could reach the final.


    I think it is more than likely that they will crash out to Australia in the semifinals. The Aussies hate being beaten by the English and they haven’t picked up a win over us since the 1991 final (I think) so they will be desperate to get that monkey off their back. I think at the back of the minds of those on the Board at the RFU (well, those who are still there) will be the 2015 World Cup and building towards that and although this tournament should never be seen as a building point, perhaps this could be the equivalent of Clive Woodward’s 1999 campaign, one where they fell short, but ultimately helped build the character the side became four years later.

    1. Nick W – the only havoc Cueto will cause in the middle the pitch will be when he is mistaken for a prop !

  4. I find the continual comparison to England making the 2007 final interesting. I believe England made the 2007 final because of the inspirational influence of players such as Dallagio. They had a backs to the wall mentality. I look at the current England side and I just don’t see it. Where is that fight going to come from? The only person I can see is Johnson but it will be fascinating to see how much he can influence things if they go badly on the pitch.

    1. I agree to an extent, Phil, but aside from Dallaglio (who started most games on the bench), who else would you have looked at before the tournament for inspiration.

      Here’s the team that lost 36-0 to South Africa:

      England: 15 J Robinson (unattached);14 P Sackey (Wasps); 13 J Noon (Newcastle); 12 A Farrell (Saracens); 11 J Lewsey (Wasps); 10 M Catt (London Irish); 9 S Perry (Bristol); 1 A Sheridan (Sale); 2 M Regan (Bristol); 3 M Stevens (Bath); 4 S Shaw (Wasps); 5 B Kay (Leicester); 6 M Corry (Leicester, capt); 7 T Rees (Wasps); 8 N Easter (Harlequins)

      I’d say England are in much better shape going into this tournament, and I think the references to 2007 are merely pointing to the fact that anything can happen once you make the knockout stages, and England aren’t afraid to grind out a win.

  5. I’d look at Robinson, Lewsey and Catt for definite. Catt was practically a player coach on the field. And Robinson and Lewsey speak for themselves. I just don’t think the Dallagio influence can be underestimated! Yes England are now a better rugby playing side but I’d say anything can happen once you make the knockouts if you have a dogged mentality and I’m not sure the current England have that.

    1. I completely agree that the side certainly don’t have the grit and doggedness the 2007 squad had. As for player influence, I think now is the time for players like Sheridan, Easter, Wilkinson and Cueto to step up into that “experienced player” slot, alongside the likes of Shaw and Moody.

      It’s probably also fair to say that the dogged nature of England has now been replaced with swagger and confidence from many of the young players, which can be both a help and a hindrance.

      1. I think my point about doggedness was that it’s too early to tell. When that 2007 were getting humped by the Springboks, you wouldn’t have called them dogged – they were only dogged in hindsight after they’d beaten Australia and France.

        The 2011 crop certainly weren’t dogged against the Irish, but who is to say they won’t find it within themselves if they make the latter stages of this tournament?

  6. I agree with Nick W. England is most likely to crash out against the Wallabies in the Semis.

    However, upsets do happen, the preparation of the Northern and Southern hemisphere couldn’t be more different, and we’ve not seen England show that they’ve learnt from the errors against Ireland. It’s all a bit of a mystery at this stage.

    Australia have also got to prove they can win more than two matches in a row!

  7. The poll makes interesting reading – 68% think they’ll make the semi-finals or final, with only 1 Scot voting for a group stage exit.

    So far…

    …tell your friends and get them to vote!

  8. For years we moan and complain about a lack of ambition and flare and now when we finally have it, we worry about our lack of ability to grind out a win!

    I know we are saying you need both styles to win a World Cup – and that is absolutely right as we saw against Ireland (and look at Wallabies against Samoa – an ability to take the points early on in favour of flare and ambition and they get caught cold)

    But my point is that we now have a team with flare and ambition – and that can be really powerful. Especially against teams we will come up against that are favourites to win against us. The nerves of expectation against the freedom of being the underdog as a strong thing (France Vs. NZ Semi 1999?)

    Look at players like Sheri, Hartley, Mad dog, Easter, Lawes, Palmer, Tinds, (god forbid – Hape) and you’ve got to think they’ve got the potential to grind out a win when the going gets tough….

  9. One thing people have overlooked when mentioning the All Blacks here is that they are at home.

    Home advantage in a year when their country has been blighted by disaster. This is one year they wont allow themselves to choke.

    In reference to the poll, England win their group, beat France then labour to a result against the Aussies before being pummeled by the AB’s

  10. I’ve not ignored AB’s at home – that’s exactly why I think the choking is even more likely! Unbelievable pressure on them to win…

    As I said above, you’d be made to bet against the AB’s on form – but World Cup’s aren’t always about the best team…

    1. I think it will come down the weather which dictates how teams play.
      it will be cold and wet and therefore not suited to the ABs or Aussies.

      Im looking fwd to seeing the Welsh slip up against the Samoans and or Fijians!

  11. Win 7 games on the trot, dont be the Year in Year out best but peak @ RWC time, Australia,South Africa have done it England were the last Favourites to lift the Cup.New Zealand are again capable of imploding, we must wish it so.

  12. I think England will top the pool comfortably given how far Argentina seem to have slipped. But once they reach the knockout stages they will be in trouble. I expect them to be playing France and I think the French’s natural talent will be too much for England to deal with. I think that Johnson overpowering personality could increase the pressure on his players when they are in camp for so long during the World Cup. And unlike four years ago they dont have the same leadership in the playing resources to encourage an attitude where they might win against the odds and much more importantly I dont think that Johnson would simply step aside as some suggest Brian Ashton did during the last tourament and let the players get on with it. He is much more ambitous than that and no doubt views this as a stepping stone toward 2015 when he will have considerable coaching experience behind him.

  13. glad no one on therugbyblog writes first ! but i can’t see england winning the world cup! i think they have great talent bar mid field but youngs and flood can be got at! they should win the pool comfortably but after that i think they could be shown up! my money is on ireland this year to make it too final!

    1. Very interesting Jimmy. I’d love to see that one. Lets just hope there aren’t any injuries. Its got trouble written all over it. I just hope that the final squad is selected on form not on what might be. See Courtney Lawes was injured today but has been given an all clear. We need him as well as Shaw.

  14. As an Englishman of course I’d love to see England walk away as champions (here’s hoping they win the final wearing the black kit too, that would be lovely would it not?).

    I think for a lot of the players who are no doubt to make the team, it boils down somewhat to the loss in Ireland at the end of the 6 Nations. I hope that they can use that loss to their advantage and use that as stepping stone of how to deal with the pressure.

  15. Im frm South Africa and i strongly feel that England or France will win the world cup, if the All Blacks meet the Boks in the semi’s. If the boks or all blacks lose a match in the group stages than the boks hv a chance to win the world cup. Even if the boks beat the all blacks in the semi’s they won’t hv enough in the tank to win the final. So England in my opinion hv a very good chance of winning this world cup becuase they are a good cup team. They thrive under the pressure. England to be champions in 2011 if they don’t meet the boks in the semi.

  16. manu should be good in our world dup squad as he can make that smash tackle which has knocked most of the premiership players on the floor.
    so he is dam good

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