Winters: ‘We must fight to the death’

Roy Winters believes England must “fight to the death” in Test match rugby’s critical breakdown area when they face South Africa at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

England’s failure to keep possession in contact cost them dear last weekend as the Springboks posted a record 58-10 victory.

Given the tourists’ continuing health problems – Andy Farrell, James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Brown and Andy Hazell are all out of contention, alongside Iain Balshaw, Nick Wood and David Strettle – they will do well to avoid a repeat performance, or worse.

Head coach Brian Ashton will not announce his starting line-up until later on Friday, but 31-year-old Bristol lock Winters, Bath prop Matt Stevens and Saracens back-row forward Ben Skirving are all expected to start.

England conceded seven tries to the Springboks in Bloemfontein, yet possibly five of those could be linked to spilling possession.

Winters, who made his Test debut in Bloemfontein, said: “South Africa are obviously very physical at the breakdown, so our actual presentation of the ball has got to be up to scratch and then we have got to stop the turnovers that killed us last Saturday.

“You tend to get the occasional big pack in the Guinness Premiership that exerts a similar sort of pressure, but the difference I’ve noticed is that it is there for 80 minutes.

“It doesn’t come in spurts, it is just there constantly, and every breakdown you have to fight to the death.

“You look at four or five tries we conceded, and they were from our own mistakes. If we do make a mistake, we’ve got to react into a defensive mode straightaway and work hard.

“Looking at those tries, they were very straightforward run-ins. In my eyes, South Africa didn’t have to work very hard for them.

“Whereas you can get away with it for a split second in the Premiership, reacting and getting up off the floor, if you walk for those couple of seconds as you might in a Premiership game, then you are going to get punished, and that happened on a few occasions.”

Uncapped Bath full-back Nick Abendanon and London Irish rookie Topsy Ojo have both joined the squad as cover, and Abendanon looks likely to feature in a match-day 22 that should also see Saracens’ Dan Scarborough making a first Test appearance since 2003.

Andrew Baldock, PA 365 Digital

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