On the right road
September 26, 2011
Steve Thompson was happy to see Mark Cueto get amongst the tries in Dunedin © Getty Images
The performance against Romania was a big step in the right direction but we know that we will have to raise our game again when we take on Scotland this weekend.
We had to go out there and we had to perform against Romania. We got the tries when we needed to and looked a lot sharper than we have done previously and everyone has got a bit of a spring in their step as a result - but we know we are still a long way from our best.
We had a good training week and I think it showed on the pitch where the boys stepped up the intensity. We knew they were going to tackle for their lives in the first 20 minutes and it was a case of just weathering that storm, going through the phases and wearing them down.
It may have been raining in Dunedin but the stadium roof ensured perfect playing conditions. From that point it was all about us keeping the ball and building our confidence to the point where we play the kind of rugby we know we can.
It was great to get my hands on the on the ball and the lineouts went well again and I think I am getting better and better with each game - and the same goes for the whole team. At a World Cup there is no point playing your best game in the first match of the tournament, you have got to work towards your best and that is what we are doing.
I was very happy to see Cuets get amongst the tries. He has had to sit out a lot of this World Cup and to return and score three tries as he did is great for him and the team. For 18 months he couldn't score a try to save his life and on Saturday he was scoring them for fun! He reminds me a lot of Richard Hill because he does a lot of tireless work that no one gets to see and he is one of our unsung heroes.
It was great to see Lewis back to something near his best too but I couldn't help but laugh when he got caught in the crown jewels by Mike Tindall's knee. We saw him go down and at first you are worried but then we saw it was his nuts and you couldn't help but laugh because he had it coming. He delights in dishing out a similar kind of pain just for laughs. So when he was tweeting last night that he was 'sat in his room icing his crown jewels' I was happy to reply to him to say it was 'karma!'
Johnno wanted our build up to the Scotland game to start with the first whistle of the second half against Romania and while I think we did that there is no doubt we have to put in some hard work this week. I watched Scotland's defeat to Argentina and they are obviously going to be gutted having been beaten in such a close game. They will be playing for their lives and we have to be prepared for that. This pool is now wide open and anyone of three teams can top the group so we can take no chances with our preparation - we simply have to win the game.
Some people may be concerned that after the games against Georgia and Romania that we will not be ready for such an intense game but you have to remember what a battle we had against Argentina. We are used to these kinds of situations and we have got players able to cope with that pressure - but that said we know we will have to play a lot better than we have done so far in this tournament.
The hard work continues on the training field where everyone is working really hard. It is not just the chosen XV or the 22; it is all the other guys outside the main group as well. If they are training well it keeps the pressure on and lifts everyone else and that is what is happening in our squad. We are lucky that everyone is really putting it in and I think that showed in our performance at the weekend and I am confident you will see similar results against Scotland.
We will have to adjust to different playing conditions with the game against Scotland set to be our first in the open-air. We know the ground is going to be dewy at the least and it may well be raining so we will have to deal with a wet ball. It will be a whole new ball game and we just have to play the conditions. We have got the players to be able to cope with that and the game will come down to who can adapt to those conditions.
The Scots have been a little hot and cold in the tournament so far but most sides have. They were very unlucky to lose the match against Argentina and this fixture was always going to be dangerous. It is a simple case of win or go home for them so in a way we have already reached the knock out stages. And we have to approach the game with the same focus if we want to keep progressing.
With Thomas Waldrom now officially in the squad we're back up to 30 players and thankfully everyone is fit and raring to. The intensity is only going to build now that we are back in Auckland so it is important that we have a chance to escape it all and get some downtime away from the rugby. We'll have a day off on Thursday this week when the players try and go off and do some bits and bobs but we can't win.
Last week I got out on a motorbike - something I do every day back home - but found myself getting criticised by journalists who insist we shouldn't be doing that sort of thing. What can we do? OK, it's a World Cup on one hand, but that is my usual mode of transport when I am in England.
It is good to have a bit of normality in a situation like this just to keep you in check. We've got a team room where we can play darts, pool or video games but I prefer to get out and about. I like to think that is because I am more cultured but maybe it's because I'm just older!
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game
Amy Perrett, the Australian referee who whistled the Women's Rugby World Cup final after handling only six Tests, talks to Jamie Lyall