Thursday, July 28, 2011

Can England Make it Three Finals in a row at the Rugby World Cup?

After England came off the pitch following their 0-36 hammering by South Africa in the Group stages of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, there was not a pundit in the world that would have tipped them to get to the final. However under coach Brian Ashton they showed great determination, recaptured their form and confidence then battled their way through to a second successive rugby world cup final. What's to say they cannot do something similar again this year? Despite ranking behind New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in the latest Rugby World Cup odds, Martin Johnson's side will be full of confidence that they can reach a third successive final at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Looking at the groups, England should qualify in top spot from Pool B, where they have to overcome the attention of Argentina, Georgia, Romania and Scotland. Should they only qualify in second place then they will know that their World cup will probably be over as they would almost certainly have to play hosts and favourites the All Blacks in the quarter finals. That prospect in itself should provide plenty of motivation but by finishing top of the pool then the likelihood is that they will play France in the last eight a match that they would be narrow favourites to win.

Victory over France would result in all probability with a very difficult semi-final against the ‘Springboks’ a match where they would be the underdogs, but by no means out of it. Much can happen in such a long exhausting tournament and it could be that England will be finding their best form at this stage. It certainly would be difficult for England, but an each way bet on them making the final is not without substantial merit.

It is fair to say that England will arrive in New Zealand with a much stronger squad than they had in 2007 with a number of match winners in their ranks. These include the Northampton trio of the brilliant running full back, Ben Foden, the try hungry winger Chris Ashton and second row Courtney Lawes, one of the finds of the last two years . They also have potentially the best ball carrying inside center in the world in Manu Tuilagi of Leicester who can tackle decisively and is capable of breaking any defensive line in the world.

Others who could feature prominently for England are scrum half Ben Youngs, also of Leicester who, should he recapture the zest he showed in last November’s autumn internationals can create havoc at the breakdown and from the base of the scrum.

England have an outstanding front row with Dan Cole, Matt Stevens and Andrew Sheridan likely to start and alongside Lawes in the second row they have any one of three top class options.

Some might say that they are little short of world class in the back row, but they can still produce a top quality three man unit at the back of the scrum where they have players such as Nick Easter, James Haskell, Lewis Moodie and Tom Croft to choose from so don't write off England's chances of World Cup glory just yet!

The Rugby World Cup begins on the 9th September and concludes on 21st October.

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