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Time to raise the bar
Steve Thompson
September 19, 2011
Steve Thompson keeps England driving forward against Georgia © Getty Images
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Features: A ferocious start
Players/Officials: Steve Thompson
Tournaments/Tours: IRB Rugby World Cup
Teams: England

Well, so much for a quiet week away from it all. Our trip to Queenstown did not exactly go to plan with the fuss about our night out hogging most of the headlines.

Personally, I think it was a massive overreaction. We've been training hard for months and were allowed to go out for a few beers after a really hard game against Argentina. But before you know it, we're in the papers and that is so disappointing. There was the tragedy with the miners in Wales but in many cases the England rugby team going out for a few beers is the top story.

Things like that only make you stronger and bring the squad closer together. It's not like we weren't supposed to be out because that day had been set aside for some R & R. We have trained incredibly hard over the last few months and don't feel guilty about going out and getting away from the pressure of the tournament because you need to escape that intensity once in a while.

It soured what was a great week in what is an amazing place. The training facilities were great and all the time we were surrounded by these spectacular mountains. We had a fantastic view from our hotel and from my window all I could see was the lake and the mountains in front of me - I loved it so much I slept with the curtains open so I could wake up to that view every day!

It may well be the adrenalin capital of New Zealand but I didn't go too crazy in terms of activities. But that's not say I didn't have a taste of the excitement on offer. A few of us had this fantastic helicopter ride on the way to an appearance at a local school that took us into the mountains but that was just the start of a great afternoon. We landed in the school field to be greeted by the lads performing the haka before putting their first XV through their paces in a training session.

It is great to be able to do things like that in the community and give something back as we were made to feel so welcome during out stay. The kids appeared to really enjoy it and so did we. With the World Cup action happening in the big towns, I think they loved the chance to feel part of the buzz.

 
When I'm on the bench I tend to play the game in my head and I will always try and read what we are going to do at scrums and lineouts
 

Queenstown is also a perfect place to get a bit of time to yourself. I went out walking quite a bit to take advantage of some of those views and to get myself sorted. My performance against the Pumas was still bothering me and I needed to figure out how to put that right when given another chance - which came a bit sooner than expected against Georgia.

When I'm on the bench I tend to play the game in my head and I will always try and read what we are going to do at scrums and lineouts. You have to keep you mind on the game because you just don't know when you might have to join the action. Your preparation will always be useful but because games can change so quickly you have to be aware of what is happening all the time. Not watching the game is not an option but that's not a problem for me - I like to get into it and am always thinking about what I might have to do should I go on. When you take that kind of approach it makes it a lot easier to join a game that is in full flow.

We always knew the Georgians would be physical and they certainly fronted up. We scored six tries and our scrum and lineout looked strong but our discipline let us down too many times. The breakdown and the offside line were concerns but it is something we can put right quickly and rest assured we will. We have already analysed the game and are confident of improvement against Romania next weekend.

Every game just appears to be a scrap at the moment and quite clearly there things to work on, but I don't think we would have argued had we been offered 40-odd points and a bonus point before the game. It's frustrating when what we do on the training field does not always transfer to the pitch but that reaction is good because it means we can and will do better next time.

You learn to expect the criticism because that seems to be the way we do things in England, no matter the sport. It is either euphoria or they get on your back but we try not to worry about that and just focus on getting better. We know better than anyone that we need to improve.

We all watched Ireland's victory over Australia and it was a great performance. We are full of respect for Ireland and they certainly delivered when it mattered. When a northern hemisphere side takes a southern hemisphere scalp it will always lift this World Cup to a whole new level - it is up to us to do likewise.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Thompson will be writing direct from the England camp for ESPNscrum each week during the 2011 Rugby World Cup
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