Dallaglio beats England’s drum

Lawrence Dallaglio has delivered an upbeat verdict on England’s World Cup prospects as they enter the final two months of their tournament build-up.

England have won just 15 of their 37 Test matches since being crowned 2003 world champions in Australia.

Such dismal form means they are currently ranked no better than quarter-final contenders – with New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and France tipped to battle it out from the last-four onwards.

But former captain Dallaglio, who is battling to be part of his third World Cup campaign, believes England can make an impact.

“What I have been encouraged by is when you look around the squad, bar one or two injuries, it is the strongest England squad they can put out,” he said.

“I don’t think that has been the case for quite a long time. It certainly wasn’t in South Africa this year, and it wasn’t throughout periods of the Six Nations either.

“Everyone is coming to the boil at the right time. Some might argue it is a little bit late, but it is what it is, and on paper we have got an incredibly strong side and a very experienced one as well.

“There are a lot of World Cup winners, there a lot of young guys who are very keen to improve and impress, and we’ve got guys there with a proven track record.

“Two of the fundamental elements of winning a World Cup are to have a pack that can impose itself on the opposition and to have a very strong defence.

“Obviously, there are lots of other areas as well, but I look around the pack, and whoever is picked, I feel are going to be very competitive.”

Dallaglio himself has less than six weeks to press an irresistible case for a place among head coach Brian Ashton’s 30-man World Cup squad.

That elite group will be unveiled on August 14, and 34-year-old Dallaglio intends to be part of it, despite spending more than a year outside the Test match arena.

Dallaglio’s recall – initially to an expanded training squad currently being put through its paces amid searing heat on the Algarve – has raised expectations among his many admirers that he could make the cut.

And having virtually recovered from a minor end-of-season knee operation, the Wasps skipper, who played every minute of England’s 2003 World Cup campaign, is ready to meet his latest challenge.

“There is no point in holding anything back now, and I will be giving absolutely everything, as will every player,” he continued.

“You cannot underestimate what it means to put on the shirt for your country – it is a very special thing.

“It is very easy to climb a mountain on your own and get to the top and wave, but if you climb a mountain with someone else and hold hands and do it together, then it is a very special feeling.

“It is what part of being a team game is all about – sharing that success with other people. It is the buzz I get out of rugby, that shared success.

“This is an elimination camp at the moment. Everyone is pretty happy and jolly at present, but there are going to be some pretty unhappy people in a couple of weeks’ time, and I don’t want to be one of them.”


365 Digital

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