England legends see no reason for panic
August 15, 2011
Former internationals Michael Lynagh, Sean Fitzpatrick, Will Greenwood and Jason Leonard help launch the Heroes Rugby Challenge at Twickenham © onEdition
Former internationals Jason Leonard and Will Greenwood have backed England to bounce back from their recent defeat to Wales and mount a strong challenge for the Rugby World Cup crown.
Wales handed their Six Nations rivals a wake-up call with a 19-9 victory at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday but Leonard, England's most-capped player of all-time and a World Cup winner in 2003, has played down the significance of the result.
"Is it vitally important that England win every one of these warm-up games?" he asked. "It would be nice but if you look back at 2003 we didn't win all our games, we lost to France in Marseille albeit by one point but we still lost.
"And in that game we learnt a lot about players who were on the periphery of the England squad and which ones were going to come to the World Cup. As long as you learn from your mistakes, even a defeat can be turned into a positive.
"This England team have got to learn from their mistakes. It will make them a better team, it really is a case of whether they have enough time to learn from it as the World Cup is not too far away."
Leonard, who was speaking at the launch of the Heroes Rugby Challenge that will see a star-studded Northern Hemisphere XV take on their Southern Hemisphere rivals in aid of Help for Heroes on December 3, also believes England must be wary of what has been labelled by some as a favourable World Cup draw.
"There are no easy games," he said. "Scotland would love the opportunity to put one over on England and nobody has an easy ride against Argentina, especially in World Cups. England must go out and treat each game as their last.
"In a World Cup, it doesn't matter if you win every game by just one point, you are World Cup winners. You don't have to be the best team in the world for four years, which is how I think New Zealand have approached it previously from World Cup to World Cup, you only have to be the best team in the world for four weeks. That is the most important thing."
Leonard's sentiments were echoed by Greenwood, who is set to take an active role in the Heroes Rugby Challenge that has the aim of attracting a larger crowd than the 52,254 fans who flocked to the inaugural fixture in 2008.
"If England had not created any chances and lost then it would be time for panic stations," said Greenwood. "There were five or six proper chances that were not taken which is frustrating but the wheel does not need re-inventing."
But Greenwood insists there is still work to be done. "You can get yourself in the right position, you can find yourself with all the territory in the world, but if you can't get across the blooming white line then life becomes very difficult.
"So there are some questions that Martin Johnson still has to resolve. But not being one-eyed, not wearing rose-tinted spectacles, I still, still believe that this is a very, very good England side, a very powerful England side.
"And when they get the confidence to play with ball in hand 20, 25 yards out, I feel as though they are going to score. I think they will suddenly turn themselves into a side that no-one, absolutely no-one - not even New Zealand - will be comfortable about playing in a knockout stage. I'm very, very bullish."
Heroes Rugby Challenge supported by J.P. Morgan, Saturday 3 December 2011 at Twickenham Stadium, kicks off at 1630. Ticket prices start at £30 for adults, £10 for under 16's, and are available through Ticketmaster www.ticketmaster.co.uk or by calling 0844 847 2492
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker