Ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup Tournament in New Zealand, Michael Gardner, The Global Herald‘s roving rugby reporter for the tournament, which runs from 9th September to 23rd October 2011, previews England’s chances at lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy for a second time this year.
England World Cup 2011 Squad:
- Props: Matt Stevens, Dan Cole, Andrew Sheridan, Alex Corbisiero, David Wilson
- Hookers: Steve Thompson, Dylan Hartley, Lee Mears
- Locks: Courtney Lawes, Lewis Deacon, Simon Shaw, Tom Palmer
- Flankers: Tom Croft, Lewis Moody, Tom Wood, James Haskel
- No. 8s: Nick Easter
- Halfbacks: Ben Youngs, Richard Wigglesworth, Joe Simpson
- Flyhalves: Jonny Wilkinson, Toby Flood
- Centres: Mike Tindall (C), Manu Tuilagi, Shontayne Hape
- Outside backs: Ben Foden, Chris Ashton, Mark Cueto, Delon Armitage, Matt Banahan
2011 results (most recent first): W, L, W, L, W, W, W, W. Six nations (6N) champions.
Tries in 2011: 13 in 5 matches in 6N. 4 in 3 rugby world cup (RWC) warm up matches.
Main goal kickers: Flood, Wilkinson.
Rugby World Cup 2011 Group: Pool B, along with Argentina, Scotland, Romania and Georgia.
England World Cup 2011 Preview:
England go into the 2011 Rugby World Cup on the back of a victorious Six Nations campaign which has been followed by a slightly wobbly World Cup warm-up.
In winning every 6N match until their last, a dead rubber against Ireland, and scoring 13 tries in their five matches early in 2011, England looked the part of northern hemisphere challengers.
Their two warm-up matches against Wales have not been quite so positive, though, as coach Martin Johnson has tinkered with combinations, but a convincing win over Ireland in Dublin will have the team feeling on track. England have a great World Cup record to protect, and in 2007 few would have fancied them to reach the final.
England have a perpetually strong forward pack and their conservative style of play has suited play-off rugby – that has not changed. If anything, the reason for that style was emphasised in their warm up match against Wales in Cardiff, where the English chose repeatedly to kick for the corner rather than collect points through penalty goals, but were held embarrassingly try-less for the match.
England’s squad looks strong, particularly in the forwards. Andrew Sheridan, Steve Thompson and Dan Cole provide a mixture of size, form and experience in their front row, with Matt Stevens providing able back up to both sides of the scrum, and Dylan Hartly to add dynamism in the final quarter.
There are options at lock where Simon Shaw gives experience and versatility off the bench, behind the athleticism of Lawes and solidity of Palmer and Deacon.
In the back row, Tom Croft is the only certain name on the team sheet until captain Moody is fully fit, but none of the squad of forwards look likely to let the nation down.
England have three half backs with relatively little international experience (a combined 19 caps), but in Ben Youngs, one of great promise. At outside half England have options many other teams would envy – the experience and direction of a certain Jonny Wilkinson, or the speed and trickery of Toby Flood.
In the midfield comes the potential problem – the English squad contains two direct, defensively minded midfielders and a 20 year old who can offer exciting pace, power and footwork but has yet to prove his rugby brain. On the outside, Ashton, Foden and Armitage are all damaging runners – when shown space.
Assuming England qualify from their group, as the world rankings suggest they should, they should be facing one of New Zealand or France at the quarter final stage.
There will be three tough matches in the knock out stages for England to overcome.
England’s Rugby World Cup 2011 campaign will begin with a tough match against Argentina at Dunedin on September 10th 2011 (Kick-Off 19:30 local time).