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Summer break did me good - Dallaglio
February 2, 2000

Lawrence Dallaglio reckons he has escaped World Cup fatigue because of his summer exile when he lost the England captaincy.

English preparations for the inaugural Six Nations have been wrecked by injuries. But Dallaglio is in the shape of his life as he prepares for Saturday's battle with Ireland at Twickenham.

The Wasps flanker says he has never felt better and believes his positive mind-set and prime physical condition are the positive aspects of a roller-coaster year.

Dallaglio led England into the last Five Nations championship 12 months ago but lost the captaincy after newspaper allegations in May about his involvement with drugs.

He pulled out of a tour to Australia before he was recalled by coach Clive Woodward to star in the World Cup in October and November.

Dallaglio said: "It was a mental and physical break a chance to recharge the batteries. Rugby is that kind of sport where you need to have that rest, and although it was enforced it was something that was very necessary.

"In many ways it gave me a lift over my contemporaries who didn't have that opportunity."

Martin Johnson, Dan Luger, Paul Grayson, Danny Grewcock, Kyran Bracken and David Rees all miss the Ireland game through injury.

They are among those hit by the punishing domestic programme which followed hot on the heels of the gruelling World Cup and all its preparation.

Fitness coach Margot Wells helped Dallaglio examine his personal fitness needs during his time on the sidelines, and now he is reaping the rewards.

Dallaglio said: "I was able to put together a proper pre-season training programme and I didn't have the added month in Australia. I would have loved to have gone, but that wasn't the case. I re-energised and gave myself some specific targets.

"We spent a lot of time trying to work on my speed and strength, trying to become more dynamic, to learn to stay on my feet more and run faster.

"I enjoyed the training and the rest. Everything was geared towards the World Cup. Now that's over it's important to refocus my targets and objectives towards the Six Nations.

"It would have been a waste if I'd let my head go down, not got myself into good shape and not been in the right frame of mind when the opportunity came."

Dallaglio flatly denied the News of the World allegations that he had dealt illegal drugs as a teenager or taken drugs while on a British Lions tour in 1997.

He insisted he was the victim of an elaborate set-up and resigned the captaincy and after the initial storm had subsided Woodward brought him back into the England fold to make his World Cup debut.

Johnson has captained England since Dallaglio's fall from grace. But with the Leicester lock out of the start of the Six Nations the honour has been passed to Matt Dawson.

Dallaglio, at 28, is not too old to retain the dream of leading out his country again. But for now he is happy to concentrate on duties at the back of the scrum.

He said: "The position I play for England demands decision-making on the field and involves a lot of tactical thinking so I feel very much part of the decision-making process of the team on the field.

"If you look at any international back row forward you have to be involved in that process. With Martin not being there, for the time being in terms of the forwards I'll assume that mantle.

"Players' primary aims are to get in the team and play well. If you can do that I think the captaincy issue is something that comes separately."

Dallaglio spoke openly about his career at the launch of a 12-month deal he has signed with on-line bookmakers Sportingbet.com to provide an insight into the international rugby union scene, starting with the Six Nations.

Sportingbet.com make England 6/5 favourites for the Six Nations crown, but the former captain fears World Cup finalists France will be the ones to watch.

Dallaglio said: "The tournament gives us a tremendous opportunity to learn the lessons from the World Cup and put them into practice.

"People still get very excited about this tournament, and the inclusion of Italy has given it an added lift this year. It's still a fantastic sporting occasion and one which the players really enjoy playing in."

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