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Mark Orlovac

England stick with winning formula (40)

Paris – Make a note of the date. It has been quite a momentous day for those of a Red Rose persuasion.

For the first time in almost two years, an England head coach has been able to keep the same starting XV for successive games.

It is an incredible statistic and highlights how injuries and muddled thinking have disrupted the reigning World Cup champions over the last few years.

For the present coach Brian Ashton, injuries have been his main headache since taking over last December.

There is no doubting the former Bath and Ireland coach has had rotten luck and this World Cup has been no different. Jonny Wilkinson, Olly Barkley, Jason Robinson, Andy Farrell and Jamie Noon have all been ruled out at some stage because of injury.

And last weekend, after naming his squad to play Australia, Ashton lost starting inside centre Farrell just two days before the game with possible replacement Barkley soon following him. It has been that kind of tournament.

So you can understand his delight at being able to stick with not just the same team, but the same 22 for Saturday’s eagerly anticipated semi-final with France. Finally he is able to send out a settled side, and it is handy timing too considering what is at stake this weekend.

But mindful of what has happened so far this tournament, Ashton was not looking too far ahead. “So far this week we have not picked up any injuries, but it is only Wednesday,” he said.

Fit-again duo Farrell and Barkley have now gone from first and second-choice number 12s to third and fourth within seven days.

They do not even make the match-day 22 with Mike Catt, who came in for Farrell last week, retaining his place and Newcastle's Toby Flood keeping Barkley off the bench.

Ashton did insist though that the win over Australia did not mean his team selection was a foregone conclusion.

“It was not an automatic process at all,” insisted Ashton. “You have to be fair to all 30 players in the squad and talk it through. It was a very difficult decision to be honest. Either Mike or Andy start at 12 and neither would be a substitute because we need a second goal kicker on the bench.

“It another example of the rotten luck Andy has had since he has been with England.”

Ashton received plenty of criticism for his team selection last week but England’s display against the Wallabies did a lot to silence the doubters.

And it would have been a big call indeed if he decided to tinker with a pack that so aggressively and efficiently disposed of the Wallabies last week, even if some are calling for the recall of Wasps flanker Tom Rees.

As for the press conference itself, it was a completely different affair to the one that saw Martin Corry and Andy Gomarsall address a modest media gathering on Tuesday.

“Is there a game on?” said Ashton as he strolled past the rows of camera crews and the crowd of waiting journalists to take his seat alongside skipper Phil Vickery and full-back Jason Robinson.

After Ashton had revealed his team, questioning soon moved onto the subject of Robinson, who will earn his 50th cap at the weekend. And so the laughs began.

“What has he given us over the last few years? Earache, annoyance,” said Vickery. “Like most people I used to watch Jason Robinson play for Wigan and Great Britain, I think I was about eight at the time.”

And it did not stop there. Robinson later got in on the joke when the 61-year-old Ashton was also asked about his full-back’s contribution to the England cause.

“I remember seeing him when he was about 16,” said the head coach before Robinson interrupted quick as flash: “Don’t tell me you were eight as well!”

Although this England side seem relaxed and confident as they attempt to reach their second straight World Cup final, there is an increased sense of focus and intensity.

And with Vickery in the dressing room, there is no way this England squad will be allowed to rest on their laurels following the win over Australia.

“The challenge for us as a pack of forwards is going to be considerably higher against France than last weekend,” said Vickery. “We know we are going to have to up our performance considerably if we are to compete with these guys."

And England fans will be hoping that this unchanged team can deliver the same result this weekend.

Mark Orlovac is a BBC Sport journalist based in London. He will be based in Paris for the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup.


Comments  Post your comment

I was a little alarmed when I heared Brian Ashton announce an unchanged team. I am not advocating dramatic changes, but no changes ? Don't France pose different threats ? Do they not have different weaknesses to exploit ? Loyalty is fine, but I would have expected the odd tweak or fine tune here and there. For example, I would like to see Lewsey at 15 and Robinson on the wing.

  • 2.
  • At 10:07 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Rich Davis wrote:

Maybe Ashton picked the only side he had against Australia due to late injuries and this is the side now chooses because he thinks it is the team that will most challenge France. same team different reasons?

  • 3.
  • At 10:32 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Alexei Chernikov wrote:

I agree with the second comment, Farrel would have been first choice to block off the threat of the Aus centres in Mortlock (especially due to physicality). Expecting to play a 10 man game of rugby shutting shop in centre channels and kicking the points. France poses a different threat as they forward wise are very very strong and against who a total 10 man game is not possible. Thus the choosing of Mike Catt in the backline to offer a bit more creativity and experience to unlock the French back line...However i would have picked Barkley over Flood and brought in Rees for specialised 7 cover. How do ppl think robinson will cope with the high ball tactic?

  • 4.
  • At 10:38 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Hasan Riyaz wrote:

I think it is a little harsh to leave Farrel and Barkley out

  • 5.
  • At 10:55 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Donnyballgame wrote:

Aw heck, boys and girls, only difference between France and Oz is France have forwards. OK, thats a big difference. But Ashton picked the lads we need. The rest, well, are the other choices in the backs really any better? Might as well stay with guys who have practiced together. Only thing is when Chabal comes on, Lawrence must come on to balance him. Then let's hope for the best and make our plans for next week.

  • 6.
  • At 11:17 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Andy Young wrote:

It's quite a simple decision really, if your team has just put in it's best performance for maybe four years and the 22 players involved in that were fit and available, why would you want to change the line-up???

If it ain't broke.................

  • 7.
  • At 11:22 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

I hope that Ashton knows what he is doing with the team that he has picked. The english game plan i fear will be based upon the premise that their scrum and forwards will be able to dominate the French scrum. Against the All Blacks i thought that the French pack were able to achieve parity against arguably the best scrummaging unit in the world and most balanced forward pack as well. I think that picking Catt is a mistake as well, defensively Catt isn't that strong and France have got the nous and players to try and take advantage of that weakness- in particular attacking the 10-12 channel. However i think if the English forwards can achieve parity and give the backs a good platform and make sure that we take points everytime we're in the French 22 we have a very good chance of winning and progressing to the final.

  • 8.
  • At 11:24 PM on 10 Oct 2007,
  • Nick Gait wrote:

Eventhough the pack had an excellent game against Aussies, I can't help but feel England have still missed a trick or two. I have no issue with the starting line-up as they came up with the goods. It is the bench; Joe Worsely and Lawrence Dallagio. First of all Worsely:he is not the sort of player who can come off the bench and make an impact, if we are behind.He is not a big carrier and he is not the quickest to the breakdown. The only way Worsely should come on is if we are winning.However he alone could have sent England out if Mortlock had managed to kick the penalty in the last few minutes. Wouldn't it be better if we had Rees, a lighting quick seven on the bench. If Moody gets injured, who is going to beat Dusatoir to the breakdown? Furthermore if Corry has a bad game Moody could be moved to Six. So I think Worsely is the negative and wrong choice for a replacement. Now onto Dallagio; used to be class but overpowered by the USA. As Easter is in great form, why replace him. Corry can also cover there. So Ashton is effectively limiting his options by picking thses two defensively orientated players. We beat Australia, first of all because we beat their scrum but Moody beat George Smith to the breakdown. We won't smash the French scrum so we need quick ball at the breakdown, they do not offer that. Surely you only need one of them on the bench. Anyway what do I know? I'm sure Ashton knows what he's doing.

  • 9.
  • At 12:23 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Carior wrote:

England were awesome last week, out did everyone, i personally had England down for a thumping to Aus and was glad to be proved wrong, the boys have superceded expectations and we should all be proud, come on England, same again and shove it down the nay sayers throats

  • 10.
  • At 02:07 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Chappers wrote:

Agree that having Worsley and Dallaglio on the bench together is a little too similar. We certainly need one of them fresh to hit Chabal hard when he comes on and surely a straight running target would be right up Worsley's street....but his lack of discipline is going to make us very nervous in those last 10 minutes. Lawrence might not be the force of old, but if he can lose the lead weights in his shoes he'll have a bit more nous in negating Chabal. Heads or tails really, either one would do but shouldn't need both unless injuries play a part early on - I say 'aye' to having Rees on the bench to give us a plan B should plan A not be working.

Good look lads - do yourselves proud again!

  • 11.
  • At 06:21 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • david wrote:

Ashton has gone for the if ain't broke don't fix it. England played out of their skins last week and put in a heck of a performance. Just glad for them there were no serious injuries. In a knock-out competition there is nothing better than picking the same wining side, as there are no second chance and now you have a team that has played together so is far more of an advantage than one that does well in the paddock.
In terms of trying to negate the french strengths, that is a bad way of looking at it England against the Ozzies played to England's strengths (which also happened to be Ozzies weakness)and set the tempo of the match early on. The French beat the All Blacks by playing at their periceved weakness which was lack of leadership at the crunch and then once doubt had hit their confidence hitting them. That game plan won't work against England who travelled through that doubt in their early matchs and come through to the promised land!
England have to be positive and play to their strengths again and try and set the tempo once again difficult grant you in France's Back yard, but the french have picked the same team as well and laporte concerned re the England pack so i would expect a similair game plan, to try and absorb as much of a full frontal assualt as possible fustrate the england pack then attack. I do feel though if england can play like they did against the Ozzies they can overpower the french scrum which wasn't that great against the All blacks. They just have focus on getting the points be it 3 (AB were intent on 7 to much) get in front and stay in front (I expect a kicking duel between Wilko and Beauxis)

"This England side seem relaxed and confident as they attempt to reach their second straight World Cup final". I wonder whether that's enough, because I think there is a sense of destiny in the French team that nobody is going to stop them winning this World Cup. You could see it in the way they stood to the Haka.

Anyway, I'm wondering about one further factor, being the fact that this game is being played at 9pm. The French players are pretty much used to it. Their domestic competition revolves around night games, and so do their internationals outside of the Six Nations including those in this World Cup. Could this affect Saturday's match?

  • 13.
  • At 07:22 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Cock of the North wrote:

This is a pressure game Tom is faster than Joe to the breakdown but defensivly Worsley has the edge and more experience IMHO I can only assume that the plan is to go out and build and then defend the lead for the win. Assuming Farrell is fit I would have had him on the bench the french back three will target Johnny what better minders than LD and AF

  • 14.
  • At 08:30 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Tom wrote:

I am happy with the team, I think the outcome of the game depends more on our game plan than which team we put out. I hope we don't persevere with keeping it overly tight and end up walking into a brick wall (the French pack) when something a bit more dynamic may do, in that case the introduction of Stevens and Chuter will probably suit.


I also wish people would stop advocating Lewsey over Robinson at fullback, it has been well documented that his tactical kicking is not up to scratch and this has been obvious when he has played there (the match against Samoa is the most recent example). I also suspect BA likes to have Robinson as more of a roaming threat who is able to join the line at various positions.

  • 15.
  • At 08:36 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Pierre wrote:

I am wanting to say good luck to the England player for Saturday. I am sorry for them that they will travel home after playing les blues. We are sure to be in the final and win for our great nation.

  • 16.
  • At 09:14 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • david anthony wrote:

Before the last match i was ranting and raving about haveing lewsey switch with robinson but now i say hell no i was wrong big time. Yes lewsey may be good under the high ball since he is taller and bigger then robinson but he doesnt have the same attacking flair. ok robinson may be getting on a bit but you can see it in his eyes that when the ball is in his hands he wants to score tries. Even if the rest of the backs have a crap game you know that robinson will be there causing them choas, he will have them all over the park and with big andrew up front no one french player is going to end the match with out a burse. England to win 18-9

  • 17.
  • At 09:32 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

I would like to thank Pierre for those kind words of encouragement for our boys....

However it does seem lightening is striking twice in 2 weeks as the Aussies said we had no hope against them and now the French r saying the same!!!

One thing i have enjoyed this world cup is the way England have responded after the South Africa game. Lets hope they do us proud at the weekend, win or lose!!!

Good luck lads!!!

  • 18.
  • At 09:49 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Teddy wrote:

Didn't Toby Flood slice through the French at will in the 6 nations clash? Guess he can still do so -- again -- coming off the bench.

I'm a bit concerned as a neutral that both teams' selections mean this will be another tight, tense, low-scoring affair. This knockout stage needs a madcap-try fest of a game. Closest we had was Fiji and South Africa. What I'd do for a 42 - 37 scoreline...

I'd expect France to win but England have found a new will and desire at the right time...

...but I'll still go for a 10-pt win for France. 22-12 or 25 -15 or thereabouts.

  • 19.
  • At 10:09 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Chief Ewok wrote:

Great to have a settled team and yes we have to be fast to the breakdown and I agree we need a powerful performance from the pack but the key to Sat will be the service from 9 to 10; France will try to negate Jonny they did it very effectivly a few years ago with the help of one MD who's pass was slow and wayward, will the ball get to me first or Betson? Two off his toes and the next, look here's my kidneys, above his head. Andy G and Nick Easter have a responsibility to keep the French back row honest by varying the game, sniping, kick over the top, pick and go from 8 and vary the first receiver ie Catt and Jonny given time and space and the new positive attude we are now enjoying who knows!!!

  • 20.
  • At 10:13 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • I.M.Fedupwivit wrote:

If you watch any rugby at all you should know this all depends on how the French team feel on the day ! I think its that simple. If they play as they can they should win. And if not a few shoulders will be shrugged.

  • 21.
  • At 10:22 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • past it fullback wrote:

How refreshing to find a blog populated by real rugby fans (English and French), who restrict their comments to the game and do not feel the need to hurl insults at each other's nations. The comments emanating from the 2 camps also show a mutual respect for each other, appropriate for 2 great rugby nations contesting the semi-final of the RWC. I am a fanatical England supporter and I am looking forward to a great game. I am also in no doubt that both England and France will behave with dignity and grace after the final whistle has been blown, regardless of which team has won and lost. Let us show our SH cousins how true rugby supporters should behave!

  • 22.
  • At 10:33 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • tim c wrote:

devils advocate time,
IF we beat france and it is a big IF can we play the same way against SA or Argentina?
If we retain the CUP or narrowly fail, will we rebuild or be tempted to keep on with the view that we have been successful?
As i thought before, a QF was as much as we could get am ecstatic to get this far but just thought a bit more discussion and bite to the blog necessary.
Never thought i would miss the banter but i do.
Come on just because you you aint in it does not mean the wind up stops!!
PREDICTIONS please and who would be in the squad for the 6 nations.
BIG apology to mr Corry the grumpy by far his best game for England.
SEE you in GAY PAREE!!!!
ps B Ashton looked like HAPPY not DOZY
COME ON THE BOYS.

  • 23.
  • At 10:43 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • kenboss wrote:

love the way vickery said we have to peak again, the ugly ways of 2003 have come back, playing disgusting rugby, england aint even playing a 10 man game anymore as wilkinson has been found out, now its a 9 man game absolutely terrible to watch but then again when were england exciting to watch no players with that individual spark just highlights the quality of the premiership now doesnt it

  • 24.
  • At 10:43 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Teddy wrote:

Ah the great cliche... "it depends which France turns up!" I don't know how many articles I've read with that as the defining argument -- every year. It's kinda true and kinda crap.

Teams can let France be brilliant and teams can force them into their shells.

So, mes amis, perhaps it depends which England turns up just as much:

Will it be a) The England that knocks the French pack on their backside and rattles the backs or b) the kind that lets the French get their tails up and allez into the night and the final...


  • 25.
  • At 11:14 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Peter singleton wrote:

Fully agree with sentiments in 21. Two great captains in Vickery and Ibanez, it will be fierce but played in right spirit. Cannot fault Ashtons selections, wily old fox. But its hard on Farrell that he even misses out on the bench. What impressed me about the French v AB's was their passion. I really don't agree with all the noise regarding refereeing, and low quality play by AB's. The French have great players but they won it on passion, not giving up, belief in glory for themselves and their country. And if it sounds like I am a France supporter, well I'm not. England have got in abundance now what the French showed against the AB's. I want to see the fire in their eyes, the passion in their expression as the national anthems are played, and it will be a great game, the outcome of which I can't predict.But I have the feeling that the team that wins on Saturday will be World Champions.

  • 26.
  • At 11:47 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Terry Ryan wrote:

Its good to read the common sense debate about the Farrell factor. For me fifty minutes of Catt followed by thirty minutes of Farrell would have provided the skill experience and energy required for the "crucial" (with apologies to Jonathan Davies) 12 spot. I respect Ashtons reasons for the selection he has gone for however. They did him proud. Now, "Englands expects....etc.

  • 27.
  • At 11:52 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Patrick wrote:

Before the last game I was full of criticism for Ashton's selection and I've been proved wrong. This time I'm saying I was proven wrong, and Ashton really does know what he's doing. Don't know if England will win, but for once I believe they've really got a chance. Good luck!

Roll on Saturday, great occasion, wonderful stadium (where dreams will come true). The weather forecast is good and two teams tipped to play a truly memorable game.I expect nothing less than passion, power,and sensation. Committed forwards taking the ball up, crunching tackles and mesmorising running with deft kicks that turn defences.There will be tries --possibly lots, with conversions off the touch line, no doubt, and the fabeled drop goal to underline superiority. And do you know what?Not one mention of some other game apparently being played in France, nor a Mexican Wave amongst the fans to ease their boredom during game time, nor long stoppages to retreive a ball kicked over the stand, or players lectured by the ref on how to play yet another set piece. Oh the joy of it all. The RL Grand Final Old Trafford ,Manchester, Saturday, from 6p.m. where and when rugby of quality and theatre will truly be found.Watch the other lot at your peril!

  • 29.
  • At 12:29 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Stuart wrote:

23 - It's only ugly if you don't like forward play and want to see throw it around basketball style rugby!

Just beacuse England haven't chosen to go a more open route don't blame the premiership. There are plenty of good sides containing a lot of English players who are happy to mix between flair and power... maybe you should go along and watch a game rather than writing off the premiership based upon the national sides style?!

  • 30.
  • At 01:55 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Tim wrote:

But DAVE, No.21

Rugby League final may have many of those things, but it is contested between 2 teams from an obscure part of Northern England, full of has-been Australians picking up their pensions.

4 tackles and a kick. That's Entertainment! Not.

The 'other lot' have real and compelling international credentials. RL is a simplified form of the game played in Leeds, Manchester, Brisbane and Western Sydney. Put it this way, I bet you can get a ticket to Old Trafford easily enough....

Dear Tim, it still hurts doesn't it?
Knowing there are people out there who couldn't give a drop goal for your choice of sporting entertainment.
What I would suggest however, is at least do some research into the makeup of RL e.g. teams,players history and I also suggest you look at a rule book --it's six tackles not four.
Put some dignity into your argument then you might be taken seriously.
One other thing RL is not played in an obscure part of N.England but in a metropolitan region with a population second only to London and please don't take the hasbeen Australian line the Guinness Premiership is full of Antipodean try hards.

  • 32.
  • At 04:44 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Roscoe wrote:

Does anyone else find DAVE's tone funny? He comes onto a Rugby UNION blog and slags the sport off only to get arsey when his choice of sport is berated. We're all Union fans Dave, I don't care what happens in League, Football, Basketball. I will be watching England at 8 on Saturday.

I also find it strange that we all moan about England loosing, then when we win we moan about the style of rugby played. If we tried to play SH running rugby we'd be home by now just like Aus and NZ. Will we ever be happy with our team?

  • 33.
  • At 05:14 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • spooner wrote:

Now now children.
The comments are starting to get a bit much.
Union v League.
Forward power v basketball.
There is a balance, League and Union have learnt quite a bit from each other.
As for "up the jumper" rugby, I seem to remember a few good handling phases against Oz, not breathtaking but at least an attempt.
One thing I didn't see is a game of 22 to 22 tennis, not as much as in the early stages of France v NZ, all of Scotland v Italy and Argentina v .....anyone.
Not having a dig against Arg, as particularly in a RWC knockout scenario, teams play to their strengths, what's wrong with that if the alternative is an early flight home and cries of "tactical naivete" from all and sundry - particularly the press?
As for Saturday, would love to see England do it, particularly if they then go on and win the final.
However, if they don't, I'm still proud of the way they've put their recent history behind them and done much better than most pundits expected, especially after the injuries they've had to contend with during the tournament.

  • 34.
  • At 05:19 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • alfie noakes the 2nd. wrote:

rolling, rolling, rolling, keep those 'old' wagons rolling....

yeeeeeeeeeha.

England have not lost a match with Catt and Wilkinson in perfect partnership, can't see it changing now.

Bit worried about this ticket/fraud lark, just been offered two tickets: they have following names at the top...

Bruce Almighty Cock Up
and some Rockochoaker bloke.

guess the easiest way around it is to put their shirts on look really miserable, dejected, apathetic, eat lots of humble pie, have a ref rage and walk in unnoticed.

ALLEZ LE BLANC.


Oh Dave,look what you've done! This was the best blog I've read yet, with the only references to the 'F' word being totally objective, and you start stirring up the ignorami. By the way, Tim, I can't get a ticket for the Grand Final for love nor money.

  • 36.
  • At 08:02 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • crispybeef wrote:

Win or Lose well done on the Boys for getting us this far. Can someone please remind OZ and NZ its only a game. A national day of mourning is not required, or at least only one day not weeks or months. Perspective is a wonderful thing.

Having said that the English domestic game needs a shake up, and the IRB need to be very careful what they do about the next World Cup in NZ, particularly given it should have been in Japan.

No doubt someone will tell me its illegal but should we (I mean the RFU) consider free player registration for all English players, plus money back for providing representatives, and increasing registration fees for all overseas players.

I am not saying no overseas players, just a little more discretion in how they are chosen by the clubs.

I think this would work for most of our National sports, not just Rugby.

Any other ideas?

Allez les Rosbifs

  • 37.
  • At 09:57 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • tim c wrote:

I posted earlier on being devils advocate re post this weekend as i thought it may stimulate discussion on forward planning.
I do not want to spoil the ambience leading up to the weekend and maybe the following one but maybe a dispassionate debate before the games not after.
Maybe not the time ?

SHAZZA i do wear glasses ,not a kiwi and it be a jest.

French hoodie lum how will i recognise you as i would
hate to be robbed by a rival .

  • 38.
  • At 10:51 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Mark in Washington DC wrote:

Noticed that Dan comment "Against the All Blacks i thought that the French pack were able to achieve parity against arguably the best scrummaging unit in the world" Sorry but the all blacks have never been that. They have always been a mobile side across the ranks but they have never held that mantel. England have not reached the peaks of our last world cup squad but lets just look at the packs performance last week. Open play break down 3 men over the top, Aussie pack broken after 5 miniutes (would have been sooner if the linesman had done his job and called them for colapsing), Forwards supporting the backs out wide. I am sorry but you can stand back and claim to admire the French and the All Blacks Packs all you want..When was the last time you saw a world class pack be dominated in such a manner (especially when they didnt play badley). Englands pack produced the best all round Pitch/pack performance I have seen from any pack in a long time, and certainly well above anything I have seen from either of the other 2 sides. If our pack steps up to the plate again in the same manner then it is the French who have porblems not us.

I said if they could produce the kind of performance against the Aussie as they did against wales pre-world cup then it was game on...they far surpassed that.

We have a very good chance and I am sorry I dont think there is a favourate for our game as it is who ever wants it more.

Come on France, have you got what it takes if the Brit Pack peaks again..now there is the question that should be being asked.

  • 39.
  • At 12:47 PM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • Pierre wrote:

I am waiting in great anticipation for les blues against England for Saturday. It is to hope that a great game will be played with much fanastique rugby playing. I am hope that our french team play with theri great flair to score tries. Strong England forwards shall cause the problems to us. Alles les blues for world cup final.!!

  • 40.
  • At 11:05 AM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

As a forward I get a bit sick of league and polynesian basketball fans bleating on about "negative" play and trying to sanitise Union. If you want to watch pass pass tackle, your turn Doris, then watch league. I love a good hard forward battle and when the game dictates you set your backs loose. Contesting the ball and physical dominance.

I'm excited about this game because it is a total unknown. England played a brilliant game last week, the backs just need to sharpen their finishing but the forwards dominated the breakdown like I have never seen, even in 2003.

No cricket scores thanks, just a good hard contest.

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