Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

GO ON THE ATTACK AND SHOW YOU MEAN BUSINESS; England May Have Been the Butt of Jokes from the Kiwis but Wilkinson and Flood's Kicking Game Can Help Them Have the Last Laugh in Tomorrow's Clash against France

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

GO ON THE ATTACK AND SHOW YOU MEAN BUSINESS; England May Have Been the Butt of Jokes from the Kiwis but Wilkinson and Flood's Kicking Game Can Help Them Have the Last Laugh in Tomorrow's Clash against France

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones Rugby Correspondent in Auckland

[bar] WILL England and France finally come to the Rugby World Cup party when they clash in tomorrow's quarter-final at Eden Park in Auckland? This rugby-mad nation seems ambivalent about a battle between the Six Nations champions and last year's Grand Slam winners and that is why an embarrassing 16,000 tickets are understood to be still on sale.

England are the butt of daily jokes from Kiwis because of their inability to avoid off-the-field controversy, involving CCTV pictures of Mike Tindall and an old girlfriend and complaints from a hotel worker about inappropriate comments from players.

Add a couple of bans for dangerous tackles plus official warnings for ball tampering and kit failures along with Manu Tuilagi's [pounds sterling]4,800 fine for the wrong gumshield and you can see why Martin Johnson's men are struggling with a "hearts and minds" campaign.

France have been equally shambolic and instead of delivering a high kicking and extravagant show, have staged a French farce with head coach Marc Lievremont cast in the role of humiliated fool and the players running around shouting loudly.

Now, it's time to get serious with both teams just two wins away from a World Cup Final and that is why England feature the two-pronged kicking threat of Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood.

The presence of both men also offers England the opportunity to finally deliver a sustained attacking game, bringing the best out of full-back Ben Foden, centre Tuilagi and Chris Ashton, the try-scoring wing. While Wilkinson stands too deep to cause real concern for the French defence, he will constantly switch positions with inside-centre Flood, who stands flat and fires off passes right under the noses of the opposition which gives the defence little time to recognise the point of attack.

France will have their eyes focused on Tuilagi, who runs great lines off Leicester team-mate Flood and that is why they have to go wider and utilise Foden's pace.

While England can reach the semifinals through the boot, they must show an attacking threat with the ball in hand to bolster confidence and remind the rugby world they really are the best team in the northern hemisphere.

France saved their worst traits for the last two pool matches which saw them suffer successive defeats by New Zealand and Tonga. It was the 19-14 shambles against the Islanders that brought everything to a head and a drinks session last Sunday appears to have eased matters with the French squad insisting the fire and passion is restored.

Their problems echo the England campaign in 2007 which hit real trouble after a 36-0 pool match thrashing by South Africa and head coach Brian Ashton then agreed to a "clear the air" meeting with the players followed by a booze-up in a bar near the team hotel. …

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