Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Wary of New Life in Fired-Up Dragon

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Wary of New Life in Fired-Up Dragon

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS JONES

TWO KEY questions hang over England's quarterfinal clash with Wales in Brisbane on Sunday. Can Wales repeat their performance against New Zealand and can England play to their potential without Richard Hill?

I believe the answer to both is no.

Wales were able to make the most of an unstructured game against a New Zealand team who nearly paid a high price for making too many errors. The Welsh scored four tries and 37 points in a glorious defeat which both boosted flagging self-confidence and served as a timely warning to England.

Tapes of five successive England wins over Wales have been consigned to the dustbin as that performance against New Zealand has dominated everything Clive Woodward's squad has run through this week. Defensive coach Phil Larder has been forced to reassess the threat posed by revitalised opponents.

Woodward will attempt to impose a structure on the game that suits England's particular strengths: driving mauls and pick-and-go forages to splinter the Welsh defence around the rucks and mauls.

Once dominance has been achieved - and assuming England don't give away more penalties at the break down - they will unleash the pace of their back three Josh Lewsey, Ben Cohen and Jason Robinson.

England would be more confident of creating the right conditions for victory if Hill was fit and wearing the No6 jersey. Instead, Lewis Moody will again fill in on Sunday.

Hill's hamstring injury, suffered in the first half of the opening pool win over Georgia, has still not healed but with Simon Shaw now part of the squad, England can use Martin Corry as back-row cover, negating the need to send Hill home.

Woodward is committed to keeping Hill involved in the hope that he can play some part in the semi-final or final - if England make it.

Patently, Hill is way off the mark in terms of match fitness, but this scenario highlights just how important the Saracens flanker is to England.

Why is this so? Well, Hill is a players' player. Mr Dependable. Always at the shoulder of the ball-carrier, offering to take over at the first point of contact or ride shotgun as play enters opposition territory. …

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