Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Abbott to Answer a Prayer for Flair

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Abbott to Answer a Prayer for Flair

Article excerpt


STUART ABBOTT finds himself cast in the role of potential England saviour against Ireland in their final RBS Six Nations match of the season tomorrow.

It's unfair to put so much pressure on one player but, with England's championship campaign undermined by successive defeats against Scotland and France, the Twickenham faithful will be looking to the 27-year-old London Wasps centre to restore their belief in English back play.

England's dreadful 31-6 defeat by France on Sunday saw the back division fail to create a single line break and forced head coach Andy Robinson to belatedly turn to Abbott, a player who looks for space to run into rather than an opponent's body.

Abbott knows he will be under the spotlight. He said: "I am not sure about being the main man. I am, hopefully, just going to slip in and have a good game. I have been out for a long time, so this is a great chance to step up to the mark and put in a good performance.

"I am coming in at a bit of a funny time but this is a chance I have got to grab. Brian O'Driscoll is one of the best centres in the world and Gordon D'Arcy is not far off. It's a huge job."

Abbott is one of seven new faces drafted into a team that started the championship with an encouraging win over Wales. However, England have lost their way to such an extent that Robinson's management team are under intense pressure and another loss would see heads roll.

Only winger Ben Cohen remains from England's World Cup-winning team in tomorrow's starting line-up.

In contrast, Ireland arrive at Twickenham with an unchanged team and aiming for championship and Triple Crown success.

Spearheaded by captain O'Driscoll, the Irish are well equipped to heap more misery on the England team.

After three successive away matches, England can take comfort from the familiar surroundings of Twickenham and victory tomorrow will help restore battered pride.

Robinson gave his players 36 hours off this week to help them deal with the aftermath of Paris which reduced the amount of time they were able to train together at the team headquarters. …

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