England are best placed for rugby world cup

Former Lions coach Ian McGeechan and now Bath’s new performance director feels that Martin Johnson’s squad are the best placed northern-hemisphere side to develop into a unit over the next 12 months capable of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup.

McGeechan hailed England’s 21-20 victory over Australia in Sydney last month as a “massive step forward”.

England beat Australia in Australia for the third time in their history and the first time in Australia since winning the 2003 World Cup.

England unearthed some new talent such as Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes and Chris Ashton and Johnson’s evolution as a manager after two difficult years in charge, has convinced McGeechan that England are finally on the right track.

“England, of all the sides at the moment, have probably got the best mix of established, experienced players and enthusiastic, quality younger players,” McGeechan told the Telegraph.

“If that continues to evolve over the next 12 months then they will probably be in pretty good shape for the World Cup.

“Johnno knows what he wants and he knows what it takes to create a winning environment. The key is for him to see that what they achieved in that last Test against Australia is just a staging point rather than the finishing line.

“England need to say, ‘Right, that is what we have to hold on to now. Where do we want to go next?”

Ironically was the first to Johnson’s leadership potential by naming him as captain the Lions’ tour of South Africa back in 1997.

In the 2009 British and Irish Lions tour the majority of the players came from Ireland and Wales but McGeechan admits that a year on Lions squad would have a very different make-up and would probably include breakthrough England players such as Youngs.

“Sometimes making just one change affects the way others play and I think Johnson’s decision to play Ben Youngs was critical for England,” McGeechan said.

“The way Youngs played had an impact on what happened around him and that drew slightly different games out of other players. He has really impressed me and if the Lions tour was this summer I probably would have brought him.

“Youngs is one of a number of younger players that have come through and got the experience of winning in the southern hemisphere, while England Saxons also did well in the Churchill Cup.

“When a World Cup comes around, you just have to be there or thereabout as a team, with the right players fit, and then you get momentum in a tournament.

“England definitely suffered last November with injuries. But most of those players are fit again now and that gives Johnno a core group to develop, while I think Lewis Moody has also done well as captain.

“They look in good shape.”

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