With one foot already in the Quarter Finals, Martin Johnson’s England team will still not be taking anything for granted until they have overcome, what is certain to be a mighty Scottish challenge in the final Pool B game of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in Auckland on Saturday.
Having lost in heart-breaking fashion to Argentina by 13-12, Scotland has only a slim chance of qualifying for the last eight. However, every rugby fan in the world knows that the sport’s oldest fixture is almost certain to produce an explosive encounter and Scotland will approach the game with great belief. They know that they can only qualify if they win by a wide enough margin to earn sufficient bonus points but would be delighted if they can just win the match, forcing England to qualify in second place which would mean a quarter final against New Zealand!
Johnson’s men therefore have all to play for too, they are sitting perfectly poised after their first three games ended in victories, including a very tough match with Argentina, who they only managed to see off by 13-9. There are many pundits that have suggested that England struggled in that match but what team wouldn’t against a highly disciplined Argentine side who proved how good they were with victory over Scotland.
The margin in fact would have been greater had Johnny Wilkinson not missed five penalties but England did score the only try with Ben Youngs cutting through the Argentine defence in great style.
England then went on to beat Georgia 41-10 but received plenty of criticism for the manner in which they played. England were accused of being undisciplined, non-creative and giving away to many penalties at the breakdown, all of which forced Johnson and captain, Lewis Moody to call an emergency air clearing session to get the problems resolved. Nonetheless, England did run in six tries, with Shontayne Hape and Chris Ashton going over for a brace apiece.
Any problems that were apparent against Georgia were gone by the time England kicked off against Romania last Saturday, a match which saw them getting back to their very best. They absolutely hammered the Romanians 67-3, with Ashton, this time going over for a hat trick as did his fellow winger, Mark Cueto. Other tries were added by Youngs, the very impressive Tuilagi, Ben Foden and flanker, Tom Croft, seven of which were converted by either Wilkinson or his replacement Toby Flood.
The tide of tries was a clear message from England that their problems are now behind them and the total focus is now on the upcoming Scotland game which, if all goes to plan, will earn them a Quarter Final against fellow 6 Nations rivals, France, a game which would also be winnable and provide a great chance to make the final for a third successive World Cup.