England v South Africa
England determined to bounce back
November 17, 2008
Delon Armitage is shackled by the Australia defence during Saturday's Cook Cup clash at Twickenham © Getty Images
England fullback Delon Armitage has vowed England will hit back with a vengeance against the Springboks this weekend.
England could live to regret Saturday's 28-14 defeat to Australia for the next three years after falling to fifth in the official International Rugby Board world rankings.
England must finish the autumn internationals in the top four to guarantee avoiding Australia, New Zealand and world champions South Africa in the group stages of the 2011 World Cup. The draw is made in London on December 1 and England's defeat to the Wallabies allowed Argentina to regain fourth place with a 22-14 victory over Italy at the weekend.
Martin Johnson's men have the opportunity to make amends when they tackle the Springboks and All Blacks at Twickenham over the next two weekends. But England will also be looking for Ireland to do them a favour by beating Argentina this weekend and Declan Kidney's men have everything to play for.
If Argentina win in Dublin and Scotland beat Canada, Ireland will fall to ninth in the rankings and a place in the third tier of the World Cup draw. England will not be short of motivation themselves as they attempt to make up for the frustrations of Saturday's home defeat to the Wallabies.
"We are very, very down with the fact that we lost but our self-belief has not been knocked," said Armitage. "Letting such a massive opportunity to beat Australia at Twickenham go is about as galling as it gets. To lose at home in an England shirt, I don't think it gets any lower than that.
"We'll cry it off and then get back on with the job of working to beat the reigning world champions."
The most frustrating thing for Armitage, as a back who had little opportunity to show his quality in attack, was that England failed to take their chances against Australia. Danny Cipriani made two searing breaks but too often England's inexperience showed in attack as they veered away from the gameplan set out by new attack coach Brian Smith.
That was compounded by a careless defensive performance, with "needless penalties" conceded which allowed Australia to control the match despite having just 41% of possession.
"We did make the chances, we did make the breaks but we just weren't clinical enough," said Armitage. "At this level if you let chances slip through your fingers you will always be punished, there's nothing more to it than that. We were breaking the line a lot, and that's a big plus. We need to be careful with a few things next week but hopefully we'll turn it round.
"We gave away 12 points before we had even touched the ball probably, and that's far too much. We butchered quite a few chances, wasted a few mismatches and we were nowhere near clinical enough. At this level that has to be improved, and we've got a week to do it."
Johnson's manner immediately after the match suggested changes are possible when the team is announced. His complaint about England going off-message in attack appeared to be a criticism of inexperienced 21-year-old half-backs Danny Care and Cipriani.
There will also be major concerns in the scrum, where Australia turned the tables from their destruction in last year's World Cup quarter-final to win two balls against the head and force England to concede two vital penalties. South Africa will not be any easier to cope with up front and Johnson may look to the likes of Simon Shaw, James Haskell and Matt Stevens, who all made a significant impact off the bench last weekend.
England will again be without number eight Luke Narraway, who will remain with Gloucester for on-going treatment to a hamstring injury. But fullback Mathew Tait, who suffered a reaction to his recent hamstring injury in his comeback game for Sale against Worcester on Friday night, did link up with the squad.
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