Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Battered and Bruised, We Are the Complete Warriors; Battered and Bruised, weThe Bulldog Spirit: Captain Phil Vickery Will Ask His Weary Team of Veterans to Defy the Odds in the Name of England One Last Time

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Battered and Bruised, We Are the Complete Warriors; Battered and Bruised, weThe Bulldog Spirit: Captain Phil Vickery Will Ask His Weary Team of Veterans to Defy the Odds in the Name of England One Last Time

Article excerpt

Byline: IAN CHADBAND

PHIL VICKERY'S moniker may be Raging Bull but he's not one to deal inbull. So when he suggests that lifting the World Cup aloft in Paris tomorrownight would be the "ultimate sporting achievement", you can forgive him thehyperbole because, honestly, that's just how it's felt here watching England'simpossible rugby resuscitation materialise this past month.

The ultimate? In terms of the depths his team plummeted five weeks agohumbled, embarrassed and slagged off as the worst shambles ever to wear thewhite shirtwhy wouldn't it feel that way to their splendid captain? As team comebacks go,victory would be up there with events so improbable as to feel almostmiraculous; Botham's Ashes of 1981, Liverpool's 2005 Champions League triumphor Germany's 1954 World Cup final win over the great Hungarian team which hadmurdered them 8-3 just a fortnight earlier.

If their story was replicated at football's World Cup now, it would be likestruggling against the Faroes one weekend, getting destroyed 6-0 by Germany thenext and then reeling off successive sudden-death wins against Croatia,Denmark, Argentina, and hosts France before gaining final revenge over theGermans.

Only this is rugby, not football, and in a pro sport now requiringextraordinary levels of physical commitment and punishment at internationallevel, the sheer ordeal required for the ageing, seventhranked team in theworld to keep summoning fresh reserves of fitness, mental strength and spiritto win critical matches five weekends in a row would be unprecedented.

How are they holding their bodies together? Even fitness coach Calvin Morrissrevealed he couldn't comprehend what drove these battered, exhausted warriorsto keep digging deeper inside themselves to find one more super-human effort..

The players themselves seem to sense they're dealing in the inexplicable. …

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