Sudden death scenario now as Red Rose nation head for Auckland after impressive display Our World Cup starts now, says England’s Johnson
ENGLAND decamped from Dunedin to Auckland yesterday with one fierce message from manager Martin Johnson ringing in their ears: The World Cup starts now.
England are unbeaten at the top of Pool B following Saturday’s 67-3 rout of Romania – but Argentina’s 13-12 victory over Scotland yesterday has thrown the cat among the pigeons.
All three teams now head into the last weekend of round-robin action chasing two quarter-final berths.
With Argentina expected to beat Georgia handsomely, England and Scotland will effectively be playing for their World Cup lives at Eden Park on Saturday.
If Scotland lose they go home. If England lose without a bonus point they would be for the chop. The knock-out stages have come a week early.
“It is not like playing Six Nations rugby or autumn series rugby. Everything is magnified in the World Cup,” said Johnson, who lifted the trophy as England captain in 2003.
“Scotland will be playing to stay in the group. “It will be a scrap. “We did the job (against Romania) and we go into the last week with three wins, which is where we wanted to be. This week it all starts in a way.
“It’s a mental thing this week, getting ourselves ready for the game. It’s going to be a big one.”
The only time England have previously met Scotland in World Cup combat was in the 1991 semifinals at Murrayfield when they won 9-6, thanks largely to a late penalty miss from Gavin Hastings.
Saturday’s meeting will have the added spice of Andy Robinson, England’s assistant coach for that 2003 World Cup triumph, now being in charge of Scotland.
“It’s going to be bigger than a Six Nations game,” added England’s defence coach Mike Ford.
“We’ll have to win. We’ll be judged on only one thing – if we’ve won. We’ll be ready for it.”
Despite the destiny of the group being in the air, England remain favourites to qualify in top spot.
The last time England lost to Scotland by eight points or more – which would be their doomsday scenario on Saturday – was in 1986 in a 33-6 defeat at Murrayfield.
If England can get past Scotland they are likely to meet France in the quarter-finals and then either Wales or Ireland in the last four.
It is a Six Nations route to the final. England are Six Nations champions.
Although senior player Mike Tindall played down the relevance of that recent achievement, he is confident England are ready to handle the step up in intensity that will greet them this week.
Yorkshireman Tindall also believes that moving up to Auckland – the epicentre of the 2011 World Cup – will help focus England’s minds on the series of winner-
It’s a mental thing this week, getting ourselves ready for the game. Martin Johnson, England manager on
Saturday’s encounter with Scotland.
takes-all games that lie ahead.
“It was very quiet in Dunedin in terms of the people around. When you get back to Auckland and see everyone it really kicks in how important the games are now becoming,” said Tindall.
“We expect ourselves to be good and expect ourselves to get better each time we play.
“It was nice to put a few things right against Romania but then again we’ve got to step it up for a stronger Scottish team next week.
“Then it grows and it grows and hopefully we’ll grow with it.
“We’ve won nine of our last 11 games. We’re not in that bad a place in terms of results.
“The World Cup is a completely different thing. It’s completely unique.
“You have to make sure you are fully prepared and switched on and if you do that then we believe we can beat any other team.
“World Cups are something England have a good history of. Hopefully that will continue.”
England are one of only three teams to have conceded just one try so far this tournament and former Castleford Tigers rugby league player Ford has already be- gun his in-depth analysis of Scotland, although he expects them to throw something new into the mix.
“It gives us another level of confidence to take to Scotland,” said Ford.
“They’re playing some great football and I expect them to throw something different in for us.
“The breakdown caused us a lot of problems against them in the Six Nations and they’ve carried on and gone to a different level.
“That’s going to be a massive focus.
“Robbo’s got a bag of tricks. If you think of every move a team can do, I think Scotland have executed it in their last two games. He’s got the full array of tricks,” he said.
“You’ve just got to double guess him a little bit.” England: Foden, Ashton, Tuilagi, Tindall, Cueto, Wilkinson, Youngs; Corbisiero, Thompson, Cole, Deacon, Palmer, Croft, Moody, Haskell. Replacements: Mears (for Thompson, 50), Wilson (for Cole 41, Cole for Corbisiero, 58), Shaw (for Deacon, 58), Wood (for Moody, 60), Wigglesworth (for Youngs, 60), Flood (for Wilkinson, 41), Armitage (for Foden, 51). Romania: Vlaicu, Ciuntu, Cazan, Dumitras, Apostol, Dumbrava, Sirbu; Nere, Zebega, Florea, Popirlan, Petre, Burcea, Ratiu, Tonita. Replacements: Nicolae for Vlaicu (71), Gal for Cazan (42), Calafeteanu for Sirbu (43), Tincu for Zebega (50), Ion for Florea (61), Macovei for Petre (52). Not Used: Ianus. Referee: Romain Poite (France).
TRY ROMP: England’s Mike Tindall is tackled by Romania’s Daniel Ianus in Dunedin. Inset, Mark Cueto shrugs off Stefan Eugen Ciuntu as he dives over the line to score a try.