Lomu impressed by England's progress
March 10, 2011
Lomu takes takes part in a rugby clinic at the Global Sports Forum in Barcelona © Getty Images
All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu believes England are on course for a strong showing at this year's Rugby World Cup.
Martin Johnson's side are chasing a Six Nations Grand Slam having seen off the challenge of Wales, Italy and France in their opening three Championship fixtures and their significant progress over the last year has not been lost on Lomu.
"England have come on leaps and bounds and we've always known they will be there or thereabouts," said the former World Cup star. "They've got a group of youngsters that have come through and they have shown exactly what they can do. You just have to watch them in the Six Nations to see how much they have come on. When you get someone like Johnno at the head of it, spearheading it as the coach, then what do you expect?"
While Lomu acknowledges England are clearly not favourites for the tournament in his native New Zealand, he believes any of the traditional big guns can win the trophy including Johnson's side who are rated as generously as 17/2 with some bookmakers. "You've got to fancy them. They are looking fantastic at the moment," he said. "But them, the French, you've got to fancy everybody."
Much of the focus on England's recently improved fortunes has been on wing Chris Ashton, as much for his flamboyant style as his try-scoring record. "Everybody has their own style of play and he's leading," Lomu said. "He's showing what he has to and he's doing it well, that's the thing, and it is coming off for him. He's embracing his opportunities, he's taken them so far and shown exactly what sort of damage he can do to any team."
Lomu's old side are clear favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy, ahead of rivals Australia and defending champions South Africa. However, Lomu, currently in Barcelona for the Global Sports Forum, insists there will be no taking things for granted in the All Black camp. "There will definitely not be any complacency or over-confidence. That's one thing the New Zealanders definitely won't be doing," he added. "I'm sure (coach) Graham Henry and the staff will make sure of that."
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In the second part of our Aviva Premiership preview, we assess London Welsh, Newcastle Falcons, Northampton Saints, Sale Sharks, Saracens and Wasps' prospects