Greenwood backs England to beat Pumas
September 1, 2011
England's Shontayne Hape relaxes in Auckland following his side's arrival in New Zealand © Getty Images
Rugby World Cup winner Will Greenwood is confident England will make a winning start to their latest bid for world domination.
England kick off their 2011 World Cup campaign against Argentina in Dunedin on September 10 and Greenwood, a member of the squad that lifted the Webb Ellis trophy in 2003, believes they will be too strong for a Pumas side that upset the odds to finish third at the last tournament in France four years ago.
"Argentina have lost a little bit of their stardust," he told PA Sport. "There will be no Ignacio Corleto, no Juan Martín Hernandez and no Agustin Pichot. They've still got Felipe Contepomi but he's had some injury problems so is not quite the player he was.
"The pack, with people like Mario Ledesma and Rodrigo Roncero, is still world class, but they peaked in 2007 so as an England fan you'd like to think they can't peak again. They'll be unbelievably difficult opponents but if England can maintain patience and maintain accuracy, there's too much pace within the team as a unit to allow Argentina to really trouble us and defeat us."
Greenwood, a key part of England's midfield during an eight-year international career, also believes that Shontayne Hape may yet play a key role during the tournament despite centre rivals Mike Tindall and Manu Tuilagi stealing the headlines in the warm-up victory over Ireland last weekend.
"England are in pretty good shape," he said. "They've answered a lot of questions but there's still a few more tough ones being posed, as Australia, South Africa and New Zealand are lurking around the corner. Hape did some very good things in the Six Nations.
"We all want our centres or our wings to score 58 tries every game, jump through burning hoops and do triple salcos but rugby's not about that. It's about putting components together that balance nicely and Shontayne is a very good defender. He had a couple of bad moments in Cardiff, coming back from a knee injury, and it's quite harsh to write someone off on the back of one performance but it gave an opportunity for Tuilagi to come in and he took it.
"Tindall brings his experience and had an outstanding game in Dublin. He's a much maligned player, outstandingly good at what he does but he needs a counterfoil and in Tuilagi I think they've found one for him."
However, Greenwood, who ended his professional career in 2006, thinks England need extra cover in the back line. "I'd have taken an extra winger - an out-and-out winger," he added. "If Chris Ashton or Mark Cueto get injured, I'd like to have a genuine recognised flyer to cover a genuine recognised flyer.
"I would have taken Charlie Sharples as he's an outstanding defender as well. A lot of the time, out wide, you need to be in total control of what's going on, see the game and work with someone like Tindall. Sharples is great at the breakdown and is the fastest thing on two legs so go for pace, pace and a bit more pace."
Greenwood is confident England can go all the way to the final but thinks hosts New Zealand will finally get the monkey off their back and lift the Webb Ellis Cup. "England are the highest ranked northern-hemisphere team, which is fair enough as we won the Six Nations. We've beaten Australia home and away in the last 12 months and we've got a great chance.
"We've got an enticing group but England have got to believe they can win that group. They can't have any doubts about that. We can turn Australia over in the semi-final. I think we can make the final but New Zealand are destined to win this one. It's tough enough winning a World Cup and to do it in New Zealand is doubly so, but I think we've got enough hard-nosed stubborn players who'll back themselves against anyone."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup