Bryn Palmer

Ashton laughs in face of adversity (55)

Trianon Palace Hotel, Versailles - You had to feel for Brian Ashton.

Three days before the critical game of England’s World Cup campaign against South Africa, one that will probably define his reign as head coach, and things weren’t exactly going to plan.

He had no idea who will be playing fly-half, whether his first-choice tight-head prop would be available, who would take over as captain if he wasn’t, two centres in isolation with illness, and who his back-three cover on the bench would be.

England in disarray? You bet, although when the slings and arrows of misfortune are this outrageous, Ashton appears to have decided humour is the only response.

A week ago, after Jonny Wilkinson had twisted his ankle in a ‘non-contact’ incident, the “Mr Grumpy” moniker bestowed on Ashton by the Bath players of the early 1990s seemed apt for his tetchy display at his opening media conference on French soil.

He looked none-too-comfortable in the spotlight that day, and his mood had hardly improved, understandably so, after England’s dismal showing against the USA.

But Tuesday’s performance at England’s palatial Versailles hotel suggested he has adopted a different approach to the crisis management now required.

He kicked off his media conference to announce his team to face the Springboks by blowing into the microphone in front of him to see it was working, only to jump back in his chair in mock surprise when the ensuing reverberation ensured no-one was in any doubt that it was.

Having relayed the setback to befall Olly Barkley, Ashton was asked to explain how the Bath player had sustained his hip injury. “He was just running around,” he said with a resigned air. “There was no-one anywhere near him, as usual with an England injury. It would be nice to think there were 10 people kicking the hell out of him!”

With the possible ramifications (no specialist fly-half or goalkicker against South Africa – not ideal) running through the assembled journalists’ minds, Ashton was asked: “Is this your worst nightmare as England coach?”

“I can think of a lot worse nightmares than being coach of England,” he retorted.

What with an update on the extent of Barkley’s injury to come, Phil Vickery’s disciplinary hearing, the possibility of having to fly out a replacement fly-half, the rest of Ashton’s day was looking pretty busy.

“I’m not banking on going to bed tonight,” he quipped.

After a few more questions – including more reflection on Saturday’s effort against the USA (“you hope pretty fervently that you will never see a performance like that again”) - Graham Rowntree decided to lighten the mood further with a splendid cameo.

Asked a question about the South Africa scrum, the popular former Leicester prop, now part of England’s specialist coaching team, seized his moment with aplomb.

“Thanks for asking, one at a time please gentleman,” he lightly reprimanded his audience for waiting this long to involve him in proceedings.

“I could share with you my worst nightmare if you like,” he continued mischievously, picking up on the question directed at Ashton earlier.

“I am stuck in a room, with no clothes on… I am on the toilet, and I have got no paper…”

That was enough to bring the house down and leave Ashton, sitting next to Rowntree on the top table, rocking back in his chair, creased up with laughter.

It was good to see. Many regular England observers were concerned Ashton’s usual cheery bonhomie had disappeared under the strain of co-ordinating the defence of the World Cup.

But when he rose from his chair at the end, Ashton was smiling broadly. He almost looked like he had enjoyed the experience for a change.

Whether he is still smiling after Friday’s match of course is a whole different question.

Bryn Palmer is the BBC Sport website’s rugby union editor.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 06:36 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Hopper wrote:

Unless Berger is cited and about 5 other key SA players get crocked by some mystery illness, I doubt it very much...

  • 2.
  • At 07:26 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • grouchmonkey wrote:

I reckon it COULD be worse, actually. Onthe form shown in the warm up games and against US, Stevens is a better prop than vickery right now. It is a real shame if Barkley can't play, but England has real strength in depth at no10 (Hodgson, anyone?)that they don't have in other areas of the field. And if Schalk Burger can't play, I'd swap him for Vickery, any day - SA are half the team without him.

  • 3.
  • At 07:46 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Rick wrote:

Sorry but Berger is one player England can deal with, we have flankers who can match him, especially when you consider that a World Cup winner like Lewis Moody is on the bench.

Outside that I should worry, but then again I like the look of our backs for once. At least Robinson is comfortable at full back and with Lewsey and Sackey on the wing it gives me more faith. If Barkers is fit then England have a fighting chance.

  • 4.
  • At 07:52 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Hawaii502 wrote:

Not taking things too seriously is the only prayer England have. Let's face it, we're pretty much in disarray so I'd rather we lightened up, have a go and see if we can produce a performance that will make us proud - (almost) irrespective of the result. We all know we're not going to win the World Cup, so let's go down with a smile and all guns blazing!

  • 5.
  • At 08:06 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Cally wrote:

Remember they only have two arms and two legs like the rest of us human beings ( thats what my dad used to say to me when we were facing adversity ) Anyway I would put at Catt at 10 and Farrell at 12 to match power with power. Jonhy Wilko maybe the best kicker in the world but as far as a rugby brain goes he is Bobbins( not in the same league as Dan Carter: never has and never will be) That is why he is so important to the English at the moment as thay dont have any rugby skills in its drive & kick...

  • 6.
  • At 08:42 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Rick wrote:

Sorry Cally but Wilko when at the top of his game is brilliant, he has a fatastic rugby brain, is a fantastic tackler, has a magnificent pass and yes he csn outfit a defender. He is not the David Beckham of rugby, there is more to a fit Wilko than his boot! I think you might also find that he was equally important to England leading up to 2003 when England had a hell of a lot of rugby skills. Bloody antipodeans!

  • 7.
  • At 08:44 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Exiled_in_rugbylessland wrote:

worst nightmare?...hearing the door lock behind you as you realise you've walked into a room with a naked Graham Growntree sitting on the bog without any loo paper.. looking at you... that must be pretty close...

I can cope with most things.. but the thought of losing Olly Barkley at this stage is really not good... I just can't see any 10/12 combination working...and you can't just bring out Hodgeson or Flood (he would have been my choice from the start..) out two days before a match like this and trust in team spirit... but still.. I have ended up being sent on a 3 week "emergency trip" by my office to a country where there is not a second of rugby on the telly... I have been glued to "minute-by-minute" on various websites throughout the small hours.. that.. I can assure you.. is pretty much your worst nightmare.. but then again.. I do have tickets for the 14 October semi...

  • 8.
  • At 08:46 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Garth Oelofse wrote:

Phil Vickerys challenge that resulted in a two match ban.

What's next ear biting.

Any player that can't play the game should get out know and those that insist and fail should face a life ban !!!!

We have seen it all over the years !!!!
So why now in this day and age should we be seeing unsportsmanlike behavior on the field is there some element that wants to turn the game into a soccer match ????

  • 9.
  • At 08:48 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • a t wrote:

i think all the comments here are pointless as the best team on the day will win it is not all desided on paper

  • 10.
  • At 09:01 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Gooks wrote:

Don't rule out England's chances entirely. If Burger gets a ban for the crunch match on friday i believe anything can happen. It would not be for the first time this world cup.

  • 11.
  • At 09:15 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • a t wrote:

if burger is in he is in if he is out he is out .THERE ARE OTHER PLAYERS AS WELL YOU KNOW LIKE HAVANNA

  • 12.
  • At 09:18 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Mark Jenkins wrote:

Hey, Exiled_in_rugbylessland,

Where are you? I might be able to point you in a direction where you can watch all the games on-line. It's not that expensive - about 6 quid per game.

I live on a tiny Island in the Atlantic and watch on my computer.


  • 13.
  • At 09:24 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • a t wrote:

who do you think will captin england my idea is mike catt

  • 14.
  • At 09:42 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • tay wrote:

We Are Still Going To WIn!

  • 15.
  • At 09:43 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • collie wrote:

I had a mate who used to say 'they have many bones in their arse as you do'...however, no the only way England will do anything in this tournament is to go out not caring and just to have fun. They might beat the crap out of sides taking themselves more seriously...they might not..but they might.

  • 16.
  • At 09:48 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • James Harrison wrote:

Just read the summary of the Ashton interview on CEEFAX, and we find ourselves without a fully fit fly half after one match.
I can't help but ask why was Wilkinson selected with his (very unfortunate) run of injuries. If Cueto was playing badly in the warm-up matches and was "struggling to find his form" and "recovering from a groin injury" why on earth was he picked for the squad?
It seems to me that the entire injury crisis is self inflicted and as a result of poor selection - one wonders if the remainder of the aging sqad is anything other than "Ashton's mates" and not the best players for the job? Am I alone in this opinion?

  • 17.
  • At 09:56 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • DrBullet wrote:

Where can you watch them online for 6 quid????

  • 18.
  • At 11:36 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • ruckingoodrugger wrote:

At least Ashtton will now have an excuse for the severe a$$ kicking his team are about to receive - in the time honored English tradition of moral victory - like Scott of the Antartic / Mallory of Everest to name a few.

  • 19.
  • At 11:36 PM on 11 Sep 2007,
  • Heinrich wrote:

HAHA this is so pathetic, you English actually think you have a chance against the might of the Springboks? It will be an all one sided fair throughout the game, England will only be there to make up the numbers.

  • 20.
  • At 01:31 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Matt Rees wrote:

Lets look at the facts. You need to slot some one in at 10 - only potentially Barkley could still play. I don't see that as the biggest problem. The Problem is;

Not powerful enough or aggressive enough up front to go through them.

Not good enough (based on US performance) in the Line out to challange if Catt is kicking lots from 10 or 12.

Not fast enough even with Sackey to go roun the out side of them. (Noon and Catt currently selected in centers, neither are "roadrunners")

No creative enough at 9,10,12 to cause problems.

  • 21.
  • At 04:03 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • James wrote:

Heinrich you absolute pleb! I did not see the might of the 'Springboys' in 2003! Dont count your chickens

Matt Rees looked at what he thought was the biggest problem (although he did then state 4 of them). The biggest problem is that South Africa are going to score more points than England. End of!

  • 23.
  • At 04:29 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • emk wrote:

Schalk Burger has been suspended for 4 matches. Too bad! It takes the RWC down a notch. Got to go and mourn.

  • 24.
  • At 04:44 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • The Whinge wrote:

Niggle - you're a star with that link to watching sport on your computer. Thanks mate! :)

  • 25.
  • At 05:21 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Brian wrote:

England are being witten off based on one game at WC 2007. Probably a little unfair - although I cannot see them progressing past the quarter finals.
My real comment is more on the negative role the citing officials are having on the World Cup. To date we have Phil Vickery(2 games), Paul Emerick (5 games) and Shalk Burger (4 games) have been suspended - taking key players out of the tournament for a long time. Having watched the games, I am not sure that any really deserved sanction - perhaps Burger and Emerick deserved a 1 match ban, but Vickery's ban is ridiculous.

We are faced with a situation where referees and match officials are in a position to directly influence the results of games. This will be the death of Rugby Union. Sports officials have never been known to be a particularly honest bunch and apart from very few they only have their own interests at heart. Give them more power ant the game is destroyed.
Lets get back to basics - the referee has the final say and if he misses something so be it.
By the way I am a SA supporter - not that it is important. I am just a passionate rugby follower.

  • 26.
  • At 06:09 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Lesego wrote:

I agree Brian and what even irritates me more is that the citing of players is initiated by opposing teams. So Burgers tackle was highlighted by the Samoans but the South African's chose to be true sportsman and let Brian Lima's even more dangerous tackle go and he can play in the next game.

Just a whole load of hogwash that's going to kill the World Cup. World Cup's are made up of characters, imagine Argentina in the 80's/90's without Maradona if he was cited for his Hand of God? If the ref and 2 linesmen PLUS a TV ref can't see anything on the day then let it be.

  • 27.
  • At 06:14 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Putiminahangi wrote:

Tena kohe!

Hey Ruckingoodrugger.

Let's keep it to "footy" mate.

If you're so bl$$dy clever - how come you didn't add the Pomeranians in the one off test at Old Trafford a few years back when the England side escaped (and you I quote) an almighty "a$$ kicking" by the ABs.

Not only that but the Pomeranians did a "victory" parade due to the fact that the margin was only 30 points (against them)!!!!!!

I'm sure that gem has been long (conveniently) forgotten by the Hooray Henry faithfull.......

  • 28.
  • At 07:15 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

If you're based somewhere outside regular TV coverage, you can get all the matches for US$50. Its with a 24 hour embargo but you can get highlights and stuff at the time. The good news is that you can get the entire match to download, so no problems with lag when streaming (which is also available). Its all from the RWC official Web site.

I'm not promoting them, its just that I am so pleased that they are finally offering a decent service. I live in Sweden and there is no rugby on TV here. I've spent so much time and effort watching previous RWCs, Lions tours etc. It seems that they have finally caught onto the possibility of providing a decent service to people via the Web. Perhaps by the next RWC they'll of got rid of the embargo.

  • 29.
  • At 07:20 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Gespey wrote:

Burger & Vickery both banned!!! For what? There was nothing in Burgers tackle! OK Vickery did stop a certain try with his trip up, so maybe that was a professional foul that deserves a penalty - it's sad, but it feels like the world cup is been decided in the boardrooms and not on the field!

  • 30.
  • At 07:49 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Mike Towl wrote:

If indeed the old fellah is still smiling at the weekend,presumably it would mean an England win. And that would be your worst nightmare, Boyo.
Mike Towl
Lagos, Portugal.

  • 31.
  • At 07:57 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • alfie noakes the 2nd. wrote:

setting off tonight for a few beers and lucky enough to watch the main event on Friday.

had a dicky fit when i first saw the selection but having listened to all the injuries etc can just about understand why BA has come up with this team.

think the match banning has gone too far and i feel sorry for the 'examples' that have been used. the spear tackle is the only offence that has been properly dealt with.

as for our coach laughing..... don't mind that, perhaps we can have a holywood remake 'fly on the wall documentary' of 'The Life of Brian' and our squad releasing a number one single..... 'always look on the bright side of life....'

sure to sell well....

allez le blanc.

  • 32.
  • At 08:23 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • kipperchris wrote:

Putimanahangi, is there any chance that you might advise the rest of your nation that the reason for the lap of honour at old trafford all those years ago was to thank the crowd for their magnificent support in the face of defeat at the first major English rugby international outside London - it's that simple! You still go on about it because you don't understand true support.It's something we Brits are bloody good at as we will follow our teams through thick and thin no matter what, usually with a sense of humour, which of course bypassed you lot in Oz and NZ.

  • 33.
  • At 08:43 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Trevor Moss wrote:

Personally, I think the much maligned England backs are not the problem. We have some genuine class and speed (evidenced regularly at their clubs) but the problem lies in the forwards. They simply do not do the basics properly.

1) Failure to clear the ruck 2) Failure to provide quick ball 3) Failure to throw ball in straight or right length at line out 4) Far too complex line outs fooling their own jumpers and throwers! 5) Scrum (supposedly the big strength) is never steady enough to provide good ball 6) Too keen to peel off for a yard 7) Getting in the way of backs or worse - in the line! (Kiwi/Aussie/SA fwds stay flat and act as blockers for their backs - do England never, ever watch the way the Southern Hemisphere play rugby?)

We havent got a prayer in this world cup due to the forwards not the backs. The backs cannot do anything with the paltry crumbs thrown at them. South Africa we could match in the backs whatever the combination, but we will be toast up front, even without Berger, and this makes the backs look poor. God forbid we get far enough to meet the Aussies or Kiwis - sheer embarassment will be result. For the record, I am a flanker and no apologist for the girls out in the backs! It just depresses me to see stuff from England that my club team would be embarrassed by.

  • 34.
  • At 09:19 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • kipperchris wrote:

good point Trevor - i never looked at it like that and always blamed the backs. I agree that the slow ball hampers the backs but also think that a half decent scrum half who delivers quick ball would also help.Also, no matter how hard they are in the tackle, none of our backs have the natural skills of, dare i say it, the Welsh, who seem to do the basics ie catch, run on to the ball, run straight etc. Now i am not one to normally praise the Welsh - but they do seem to play backs rugby as it was meant to be played. You can go on all day about their pathetic results, and God knows I do, but if we had their backs I think we would do much better.

  • 35.
  • At 09:23 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

What I have enjoyed about this World Cup is watching sides like Georgia and Namibia, playing good old fashioned rugby which is entertaining and played in the right spirit. At the very top level now, it has become a little predictable - professionalism has really changed the game in this way. At least the early pool games have got the families and kids back watching on the touchlines and enjoying the atmosphere.

  • 36.
  • At 09:30 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • chearypimms wrote:

In response to the previous comment perhaps you are correct about the forwards, but would suggest that "quick ball" is not what we do very well anyway?
We cannot compete on the speed front with the likes of NZ Aus etc but Italy showed an interesting change of "tact" by simply applying a "wedge" tactic up front and slowing play down considerably could England learn something from Italy?
(they @ least were able to identify a need to change tactics)

I tried to complain about Hawaii502's comment about les blancs going down with all guns blazing. There was no category in the list of complaints for there being nothing to complain about, Hawaii 502's comments were spot on.

How typically British to go down with all guns blazing, that's aplomb for you, and how great it was for "Old Grumpy" and his side-kick to discover the value of humor in his last press conference, at Versailles of all places.

And while I have only just started reading this "column" and dont even know the score in the US-Engand game it helps the gme to see the host country humbled by Argentina. I can't help wondering who taught the Argies the game.

Viva la difference et viva le rugby. Surely we can all drink to that!

  • 38.
  • At 10:07 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • pedro c wrote:

Trevor Moss - that is the most sensible posting I have read on the BBC site in months. It is just a shame that the England coaching team haven't realised too!

With the selection of both Corry and Easter i suppose we can only hope for "stick it up the jumper" rugby. Poor old Sackey and Lewsey aren't likely to see much of the ball on fri!

There is absolutely nothing to complain about in Hawaii 502's comments about les blancs going down with all guns blazing. How typically British to go down with aplomb. Better yet to laugh it off like "Old Grumpy" and his side kick did in his last press conference.

Wasn't it Kipling who said "it matters not to win or lose, but how you play the game". In my adopted homeland, where a game that faintly resembes le Rugby is played, Vince Lombardi, the doyen of NFL coaches said something like "winning is not the only thing, it's everything". Horse manure. It has to help any series when an "underdog" like Argentina beats the host country. It's like Appalachian State, a small college in the mountains of North Carolina beating a perrenial powerhouse, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan no less, two Saturdays ago, the opening day of the 2007 college football season.

And if the US can give England a good game it's maybe time for me to start watching games in the comfort of my home. How do I do this on line, or do I have to watch ESPN?

Viva le Rugby and, of course, la difference.

  • 40.
  • At 10:40 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

What I have enjoyed about this World Cup is watching sides like Georgia and Namibia, playing good old fashioned rugby which is entertaining and played in the right spirit. At the very top level now, it has become a little predictable - professionalism has really changed the game in this way. At least the early pool games have got the families and kids back watching on the touchlines and enjoying the atmosphere.

  • 41.
  • At 11:20 AM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • JJ wrote:

It is certainly true that good forward play helps the backs decide their attacking options - however, England has lacked any such tactics or decision making, with forwards plodding along with heads down thinking that slow muscle power will somehow miraculously set up their backs.

Get the basics right- control the ball , don't knock on, support your man and let's see a few more backs taking that ball at speed!

  • 42.
  • At 12:12 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • matt wrote:

I love hearing from the SA boys, the country that redefined 'choke'.. Burger out? Put Graham Smith in the team, hes a winner!

  • 43.
  • At 12:30 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • phil wrote:

If the Springboks are as ridiculously overconfident as their gobby fans are on this page, then they r in for a hell of an upset - (i believe France were expected to win their opening game?). Its all on the day and both teams have quality players (Heinrich and the "might of the springboks", jeez you have to laugh at that LOL). Lets just enjoy the game cos its gonna be a belter!

  • 44.
  • At 12:41 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • DespairingStu wrote:

Quick ball. Quick ball. Quick ball.
That is the only thing that will enable England to play the sort of rugby they aspire too and, while they keep on picking such lumbering forwards who have such limited ball skills, they have absolutely no hope.
Watching Kay, Shaw, Corry and Worsley trying to pass is like watching seven year olds before they've been taught how to do it properly. Seven year olds end up learning how to pass properly,why can't the English pack?
England's backs are by no means exempt from criticism though and they seem to be coached not to play anything that could be described as 'risky'. Why pass the ball out of a tackle when you can hold on to it, wait for 10 seconds for a slothful pack to appear and start again (normally with a pass to a forward standing at 10). Not only is it ineffective, it is also mind-numbingly dull to watch.
I will be cheering any team that wishes to play rugby whether it's the Welsh, The All Blacks, the Irish, SA or the French and certainly not England or Argentina.

  • 45.
  • At 01:35 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Cheese van Tonder wrote:

DespairingStu has hit the nail on the head regarding England's woes - SPEED AT THE BREAKDOWN & QUICK BALL. There is nothing wrong with the backs, its just that they are not getting quick ball from rucks. I think england are playing more mobile loosies(moody,easter, rees).
As a Saffa supporter, if any of my countrymen think its going to be easy - they are kidding themselves and being idiots. Its a big game for everyone and its going to be won by 4 points...can't wait

  • 46.
  • At 03:08 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • James wrote:

You know, I have to agree about the citings so far, as a Scot and a photographer working for Wales, I don't see much of the England stuff, but to lose Vickery, Burger and Emerick out of that group is a tragedy.

I know Paul through the Dragons, and he has been a force the last 12 months for them, he makes running rugby look good and will be a serious loss for the USA and the RWC in general. Same goes for Schalk Burger.

Ease up chaps, big bans are necessary sometimes, but not always.

  • 47.
  • At 04:05 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Mike Reed wrote:

Its taken nearly 3 years for someone in rugby union to use Farrell at what will definetly be his best playing position "stand off". Now if he just had Paul Wellens St Helens and Martin Gleeson Warrington outside him we might just have enough clout in the three quarters to back up what ashton is trying to do with the pack.

  • 48.
  • At 04:29 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Mani 234 wrote:

England wil so win da world cup,,,
mark my words!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 49.
  • At 04:47 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Ken Johnson wrote:

Feeling despondent about the game on Friday (despite enjoying the tournament).

However, despite being 48 and retiring 2 years ago, I would be prepared to buy a new pair of boots and would make myself available...

  • 50.
  • At 05:41 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Luke wrote:

Farrell at 10, Catt at 12, Robinson at 15... That is something that should work like a dream. Plenty of experience and it will bring a maturity to the backs having these players skattered throughout. England will need to keep their heads if theyre going to beat S.A. as we saw when Samoa lost theirs... I think it can be done and this shakeup is what is needed. As for Vickery... losing it a bit?? I think he deserved it, hes not a footballer, no need!

  • 51.
  • At 06:19 PM on 12 Sep 2007,
  • Mark Jenkins wrote:

In the States you can watch games live on-line on's broadband service. Same with a site called (or something like that). shows games 24 hours later in numerous countries off-the-beaten-track, which, if you live somewhere where there's no coverage, is no big deal since you won't know where the score is anyway!

  • 52.
  • At 09:04 AM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Quent wrote:

Don't write off England just yet. Ashton has taken an enormous gamble in his position selection for Farrell but provided he can react quickly (remember Hodgson. When he first played for England he was often too slow, i.e. he took two steps before kicking as opposed to one step Wilko - and Hodgson was often clobbered as a result!), we have a very good chance of upsetting the odds. We have vast experience throughout the team including the reliable but still deadly Robinson at full back plus the speed of Sackey and the youth and dynamism of Rees. Remember also, the psychological aspects of the game. SA have in effect had an easy week. In their minds, they'll be cruising having sailed past Samoa and thinking that a depleted England team will be a piece of cake. Whereas England will be smarting after their relatively narrow victory over the US and will be incredibly fired up to right the situation and prove the media critics wrong. Beware the wounded Lion!

  • 53.
  • At 10:28 AM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

I've read a lot of complaining about the citing of people in matches so far, but if it deters people from cheap tricks, I'm all for it. We shouldn't go over the top with punishments, they should be proportionate (maybe 4 games for Schalk is too much), but they should also be enough to be a deterrent. Football is riddled with cheating players because the authorities don't take firm action and the refs have very little authority. It's a shame to lose great players like Schalk due to citing, but in future maybe they'll think twice about some of their tactics and they'll stay on the pitch for the whole RWC.

  • 54.
  • At 10:30 AM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

Neck on the line time, I would love to see England beat SA but they will not.

Firstly, as incorrectly suggested, SA will not take England lightly.

Secondly, playing Farrell at 10 is a mistake on a grand scale. Yes he has played at first receiver in RL but he would have had far more time than he will have with this current England team. The reason; although England tend to dominate possession invariably it's always slow. Just the kind of possession backs would rather not have!

Thirdly, although the pack is generally domininant, they will struggle to be against a juggernaut SA pack which will match it in terms of physicality and we all know England don't have a plan B.

I hope my pessimism is proven to be unfounded.

  • 55.
  • At 03:33 PM on 13 Sep 2007,
  • Mark in Washington DC wrote:

Guys, read through alot of the above and there seems to be a lot of praise for the team on must be planning for the same game as Ashton..which aint against SA. The pack and the backs look dis-jointed as for us being a 15 man team, with Perry and Farrel as the link between forwards and backs..NOT A CHANCE. Don't get me wrong their both good players but at international NO.(Or atleast not yet). Perry spends to much time trying to do the forwards jobs...against wales all to often the ball came back and no quick ball came, why? because HE was in the rucks and mauls (i.e. no quick ball = turn-overs or poor service) and as for Farrel, fantastic runner but has proven time and time again he doesn't have the savi to pass the ball at this level. All to often in games we see him making ground but then seems to have no idea who is around him or when to off load. This problem is all more compounded by Catty being at inside centre, we have young lads on the bench (and in the Squad) who could make up a much stronger and quicker set of backs. Have we not forgot about Billy Whizz'slack of height at full back?

And as for not even having Laurence on the bench as an impact player well dont get me started.

We have a good squad but as long as we are happy for the manager to put out shuffled make shift sides and basically experiment in the world cup, we might as well put the pints down and get the china out as we won't be seeing any silver ware (or gold) for a while.

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