Leonard accuses England of complacency
February 21, 2008
World Cup winner Jason Leonard believes England were guilty of "resting on their laurels" in their opening RBS 6 Nations games - but is confident that will not happen in France on Saturday.
Brian Ashton's side have allowed standards to slip in both matches so far, with Wales mounting a stirring comeback to win at Twickenham and Italy almost doing the same in Rome.
France are already on course to take the Six Nations crown having beaten Scotland and Ireland, and will be looking for revenge for last year's World Cup semi-final defeat in Paris.
Leonard, who helped England to win the game's biggest prize in 2003, has been less than impressed with England so far.
He said: ''In both games they have racked up a considerable lead and, although they won't admit to it because it smacks of being unprofessional, they rested on their laurels.
''In the Italy game, Jonny Wilkinson was back to form after the Wales game and they thought they were going to rattle up a cricket score.
''But in international games, if you take the foot off the pedal and give the opposition the chance to come back into it that's a crime.
''That was down to their inexperience. You can't be too heavy-handed with them because this is a young side. There are a couple of older players in the side but, as a squad, the amount of rugby they have played internationally means they are still naive.
''But if you need a kick up the backside, it is best to have it before you play France. We are all hoping they will come out all guns blazing and I'm pretty happy. England could pull off a shock win this weekend.''
Leonard, capped a record 118 times for England, identified centre Toby Flood as the side's key man rather than his Newcastle club-mate Wilkinson.
He said: ''For the last two games, Toby Flood has eclipsed Jonny Wilkinson in game management.
''Over the two games, he has been our best performer. Tactically, he has helped the players around him, especially Jonny.
''His defence has also been rock solid, even though he doesn't look the biggest guy in the world.
''His work-rate has been good and he can also create. He can make space for people and seems to be growing into the role.
''He is only a young guy but is growing into being an international player. He is thinking, 'this is where I am supposed to be'.
''Players are coming through and playing their own game and are not content just to look at the experienced players and say, 'I want to be as good as him'.
''They are thinking 'no, I want to be better than him - give me the ball and I'll show you how to do it'.
''That is starting to come through, which bodes well for English rugby.''
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor
Red cards, uncontested scrums, end-of-season wobbles and schoolboy errors - the Monday Maul looks back over the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures includes puffed players, dismissed players and training in the snow