Richards determined to erase bad memories
October 19, 2007
England's Peter Richards has recounted the agonising aftermath of a record World Cup defeat against South Africa - and revealed that even English newspapers were banned from the team hotel.
London Irish scrum-half Richards will be on the bench tomorrow when England target victory over South Africa in the unlikeliest of rematches - a World Cup final.
The game comes just 36 days after England were smashed 36-0.
But since one of the darkest days in English rugby history, Richards and company have turned things around spectacularly, beating Samoa, Tonga, Australia and France to resurrect their world title hopes.
Richards said: ``We have done a lot of hard work after that (South Africa) game.
``Everyone - including a lot of guys in the squad - were doubting our team.
``There was a fear in the team that we would be remembered as the worst England team in the history of the World Cup, not qualifying from the pool stages.
``English papers were banned from our hotel because they were afraid we would be affected by what they said about how badly we got beaten.
``We knew we had under-delivered in that game.
``The quarter-final against Australia was the acid test. Coming through that game narrowly - we beat them against the odds - gave us great confidence.''
England then backed up that victory in Marseille by defeating host nation France, snatching victory at the death through a Jonny Wilkinson penalty and drop-goal.
And Richards added: ``Beating the hosts was a bigger challenge than beating Australia, but again we came through.
``There was a unity, we were fighting for each other, and that fighting spirit was so heartening.
``We've been the underdogs for the quarter-final and the semi-final, and rightly so for the final, but that has not made a difference in the results.
``Previous results count for little, and that showed in the game against France. We wear the tag of underdog well.
``Having five or six of the guys involved who were there four years ago with the trophy, is mightily important.
``They know what it takes, with guys like Lawrence Dallaglio coming off the bench with huge amounts of experience.
``South Africa are the best team in the tournament, and to beat them we have to be at our very best.
``Some people say that would be the time to start training hard, but we need to take a step back. We've been training so much - we have been together for almost three months.''
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