RWC Team Preview: England

Rugby World Cup Pedigree
England’s record at the World Cup is very strong. They have never suffered a major defeat, though they were run close in 2003 by Samoa and Tonga in 2007. When it comes to the knock out stages however, there have been two quarter final defeats against South Africa in 1999 and Wales in 1987, a semi final loss against New Zealand in 1995, and three final appearances, losing once to Australia in 1991, once to South Africa in 2007, but winning the big one against Australia in Sydney in 2003.

Best Rugby World Cup moment
English rugby’s greatest moment came with Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal in 2003, the three points edging England ahead against Australia with minutes left on the clock in extra time. It made heroes of the squad, and earned coach Clive Woodward a knighthood. It has become the benchmark for success in English rugby, and is a moment that they are yet to match.

Biggest Rugby World Cup win: England 111 – 13 Uruguay. Brisbane, Australia. 2nd November 2003

Biggest Rugby World Cup defeat: England 0 – 36 South Africa. Paris, France. 14th September 2007

Key player: Jonny Wilkinson
Mike Catt last week stated that Wilkinson was “put onto this planet to win World Cups”. Melodramatic perhaps, but Wilkinson’s actions in 2003 and his controlling influence during the campaign in 2007 helped steer the England team through both good times and bad times. 2011 will be his last World Cup, having also previously played in 1999, and he will want to leave yet another mark on the tournament’s history. His calming influence, along with his excellent passing and kicking game, make him essential.

One to watch: Manu Tuilagi
From club squad member to potential England starter, Manu Tuilagi has undergone an incredible journey this season with Leicester Tigers and now the national side. There have been great tries and huge hits in defence, with a high profile suspension in between, and Tuilagi’s performances in the recent warm up matches, including two tries for England in two games, mean he has to be picked. Provided with enough good ball, he will shine.

Rugby World Cup Fixtures:
10th Sept 09:30 BST: vs Argentina in Dunedin
18th Sept 07:00 BST: vs Georgia in Dunedin
24th Sept 07:00 BST: vs Romania in Dunedin
1st Oct 08:30 BST: vs Scotland in Auckland

Key clash:
A tough call between the match against Argentina or the match against Scotland, but the last match between England and their fiercest rivals north of the border is more important because of how it will affect the knock out stage. Both England and Scotland know that they could be playing to face France, or if they lose, the hosts New Zealand. Neither side will want to face the All Blacks until the final if necessary, meaning that this is a must win match.

Odds: 16/1 to win the tournament.

England coach Martin Johnson says:
“World Cups are about pressure, dealing with it off the field, dealing with it on the field when you get into close games. Finding a way to win is what World Cups are about. If you talk about style, it is the team that can battle back and find a way to win a close game.””

England captain Lewis Moody says:
“Someone asked me last week if I was excited about the World Cup and I genuinely haven’t been excited about it yet because there such a frustration from that loss against Wales. Our focus was so much on Ireland and winning and putting everything into that. I am genuinely now excited about going to the World Cup.”

England managed to make the final in 2007 despite being torn apart by South Africa in the pool stages. This time round they are better prepared, with a stronger squad, especially in the pack. The big problem is whether they can make it happen in the backs, and going into a World Cup with a brand new centre combination of Mike Tindall and Manu Tuilagi screams of panic.

England could make the semi finals against Australia if they defeat France in the quarter finals, but unfortunately this time, that will be as far as they go. Australia are a complete side peaking at the right time, with the Tri-Nations title to prove it. In a shoot out between those two sides, right now there is only one winner. Semi Finals.

By Ben Coles

Photo: Onside Images / Patrick Khachfe

31 thoughts on “RWC Team Preview: England

  1. I think they will come up a cropper against Georgia and Argentina. Their World Cup will depend on the result of their game against Scotland.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they fail to get past the group stages, and yet again they may surprise everyone by getting to the semis. They won’t make the final, poorest England squad in a generation.

    1. This squad is far more skilled than the 2007 world cup squad. Do you honeslty think Georgia will turn us over? Our pack can deal with most in the world, and our backs have the ability to cut lose, i think injuries in certain positions will depends on how far we get, if we lose any more back row or Youngs isnt fit, then we will struggle. But i think the Semi’s is achievable!

  2. Great quote from Catty. Apparently during 2007 he kept saying ‘It’s Jonny Wilkinson time’ to him before every match! Good to have confidence in you but ramps up the pressure somewhat!

  3. Dan, Lasswade Lad is just stirring ignore it!

    Ben if we did get to a Semi against Aus I wouldn’t write us off! World Cups are different to other games, our record is played 5 won 3 against them. They may have a great team but their team was far better than ours in 2007 and we still beat them!

    1. ben – exactly.

      World cup = knock out rugby and the SH teams (exc SA) need to get to grips with the rugby required.

      The Saffers have it mentally,no question.

      i wonder whether the Aussies have the experience? they are a very young team, there to be bullied.

      1. C’mon SH teams need to get to grips with the rugby required? SA 2 wins + Aus 2 wins + NZ 1 win = 5 wins vs 1 from the NH. Surely the stats counter that argument?

        It is true that both NZ and Aus underperformed last time however at the end of the day SA was the form team.

        1. see my comments re SA.
          NZ have been the form team and not delivered.

          Last 2 RWC england have reached both finals by playing knock out rugby.

          If NZ, Aus play like they do in the Super 15, they will get nailed.

        2. Tana, it’s worth remembering that a NH team has been in 4 out of 6 finals. Also bearing in mind that in every year except 2003 they haven’t been ranked in the top 3!

          1. If the NH hemisphere teams play their normal style on the big SH pitches though they’ll get run ragged, that’s why i fancy the pacific island nations to give some of the NH sides a run for their money as well

  4. ‘England could make the semi finals against Australia if they defeat France in the quarter finals’

    They might want to win all their pool games first. Or is there an assumption here that France will beat New Zealand? No, I thought not.

    Looking at England’s pool they’ll struggle to get out of it, facing competition from two teams that can match them in their 1-dimensional game plan. But maybe confidence is on the up after beating a weakened Ireland team who weren’t really looking to get players injured (ironic that they did).

    So assuming the players aren’t expecting an easy ride (as the fans seem to on this blog) through the group and turn up they should probably win it. Beyond that I would want to say.

    1. Mark – i think france have a very good chance of beating NZ.

      If anyone can do it, the french can.

      watching them manhandle the irish over 2 games was breathtaking.

      they look physically stronger than ive seen them and they have one of he best best tight 5s out there.

      we know about their backs and Rougerie could be one of the RWC stars.

      underestimate them @ your peril!

  5. Think our “potential” success will depend entirely on match day selections. If Johnno goes back to the Hape/Tindall centre partnership, i really do see us struggling, and maybe not even making it out of the groups stages. However, if he gets the centre partnership right, and the back row selection right, i can definitely see us progressing to semi’s, maybe even final.

  6. Totally agree that Wilkinson is vital to England’s chances. I think they have an outside chance of making the final if they win their pool (which they should) as they tend to do well against both France and Australia. However I have thought for some time that Australia are the team to watch this tourney.

    No matter what, I hope to see some intense matches – especially as I will be there in the flesh :-).

      1. Agreed, France are always a danger at world cups, they often look a big disinterested but for some reason they play well against the big teams when they’re underdogs, plus not many are talking about them as potential winners which they’ll love

        1. yes Matt. I get the feeling that they are looking at this as their RWC.
          they have the forwards and they have the backs.

          the beat ireland easily in 2 warm up matches and seem mentally that they are up for it.

          If they beat NZ, anything is possible for them.

  7. Im kinda surprised by the pesamism here. Saying that we might not even make it out of our pool. I reckon we will win our pool, our pack is by far the most superior, and if Johno is willing to let the backs play they could be destructive, … and creative.

    My prediction, to loose the final.

    Agreed that the England hopes kinda depend on old Wilko and Youngs.

    1. completely agree with that. I think we will easily win our pool and progress through to the final and then who knows?

    2. as dour as it is watching england play, they do have a knack of winning world cup games and should be minimum quarter finals

  8. Don’t think England will beat France in the quarters – yes France are very unpredictable, but I think they;ll take out what is a good, but ultimately one-dimensional English side.

  9. I have England to make it to the semis but even that is extremely optimistic. It’s a tricky group. But i guess the bright side is they have a similarly path to the final as in 2007 with France and Australia – teams they know they can beat.

    Could go either way! I’d be keen to hear if there is a consensus in England in expectation….

  10. I really am looking forward to this world cup, i think this England side is strong. I do understand the view that they will struggle to make it out of the group stages but to be honest England will be too strong for any of the group they are in. Scotland should be interesting but I really think England will put them away. Once we get to the knock out stages its anyones guess who will win, but I am confident we will get to the semi’s and maybe even the final. It has to be New Zealand’s to lose but we have said that before! Here’s to all of the fans who ever they support, enjoy the games, good luck and may the best team win.

    1. I agree.. its anyone world cup. France, Nz, Aus, S. Afr (possibly not) , Wales (wishful thinking), Eng (hope not). Theres usually the odd shock result here and there (usually involving my Wales) so you never know. Unfortunately its rarely the most entertaining team who wins it, hence Englands great record in world cups. Lets hope its a good cup tho

  11. After 2007 I would never write off England in the World Cup. They look well prepared this time and I would be amazed if Tuilagi deos not partner Tindal in the centre. They will win pool and beat France in the quater finals and then lose to Australia at the semi final stage.

  12. Smell the Roses lads – Pressure coming down on me – “up for it” tosh! Granny says she will play. When has the team that was “up for it” won the WC? Granny remembers. 4 horse race – Beechers brook NZ gone!! Yes Victor! Again an unworthy team has won the WC. How long – how long must we sing this song? Too much salt?

    1. Sorry – I overestimated you. Brawn over brains -eh? England’s downfall?!
      Your friend – Ding Dong Denny (always up for a Ding Dong!)

        1. Cohiba Behikes – Why? – I know it’s a pitty they are a limited edition. Hope it doesn’t all go up in smoke – again!
          Hasta luego
          Ding Dong!

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