Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Have Nothing to Fear; Australia Scared of England's Winning Mentality

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Have Nothing to Fear; Australia Scared of England's Winning Mentality

Article excerpt


IT'S the biggest match in English rugby history, one that will define careers, earn knighthoods and riches beyond the players' wildest dreams.

Tomorrow is the culmination of four years of gargantuan effort by Clive Woodward, his management team and players. For them, a repeat of the failure of 1991 is unthinkable.

To come so far only to fall short leaves scars that will never heal: just ask the players who lost to Australia at Twickenham 12 years ago.

There is also the small matter of the [pounds sterling]30million the Rugby Football Union have shelled out to give England's elite player programme the kind of open chequebook that has been the envy of nearly every other major nation over the last four years.

For the England players, it's only ever been about the rugby, the endless hours of video watching, fitness training, weights sessions and diet programmes.

Even the personal sacrifices, the time away from loved ones, the missed birthdays and anniversaries, have been excused because it was for the greater good - the big picture.

That picture is about to be flashed up on television screens across the globe, from the desert army camps of the Gulf, where England fullback Josh Lewsey's former Sandhurst officer cadets are serving, to the main bar of Barking RFC in east London, where Jason Leonard started his rugby career when still a jobbing carpenter with a penchant for nicking food from his mate's fridge in the dead of night when he was sleeping over.

Die-hard rugby fans have been joined by new-found converts caught up in the wild enthusiasm generated by an English sports team that actually wins on a regular basis.

And to make the task even tougher, Woodward's men are attempting to claim the ultimate rugby prize on foreign soil. Yes, they do speak English over here but following every "G'day mate" is the inevitable "We're going to beat you bastards". They really do want to stuff us.

Maybe the constant victories in the Ashes series and the rugby league Tests have created a dependency on sporting triumphs over the Mother Country.

That's certainly the impression given in the last week as the host nation has woken up to the nightmare thought that England might just beat Australia.

When you strip away the emotion and bigotry and examine the fundamental truths about this World Cup Final it is patently obvious that England have nothing to fear. Australia may be the reigning champions, but no country has ever successfully defended the Cup and that should still be the case at the end of this final.

England have won the past four meetings with Australia. Ben Cohen led the way in June, in a hugely impressive victory in Melbourne, when they outscored the Wallabies three tries to one. England will be looking for more of the same from Cohen tomorrow. …

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