Sat, Nov 13, 2004 - Page 18 News List

England hopes to rout Canada in London

AP , LONDON

England should finally recover from a long and painful World Cup hangover by crushing Canada today.

Anything less than a victory by 30 points, however, will mean more gloom for a team that has nose-dived since its World Cup triumph a year ago.

On the busiest weekend of international rugby since last year's World Cup, Australia -- no longer with a title -- takes on Six Nations champion France in Paris and Tri Nations winner South Africa also has a tough game in Ireland.

New Zealand goes to Italy, Scotland hosts Japan and Wales takes on Romania.

While the coach of each team has his own agenda, they will all be interested to see how England performs under new coach Andy Robinson. Since that historic day when Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal seconds from the end of injury time against Australia earned a first World Cup crown, England has floundered.

While coach Clive Woodward quit and eight members of the World Cup-winning squad retired, England lost five of its last six games, surrendering the Six Nations title to France and being soundly beaten by New Zealand (twice) and Australia in the summer.

Wilkinson hasn't played since that famous drop goal because of a series of long term injuries. Although coach Robinson has named him captain, the Newcastle fly half will miss all the tests against Canada, South Africa and Australia and the team will be led by former rugby league star Jason Robinson.

"We need to get back to winning ways," said Jason Robinson, who will lead the team from fullback. "There has been a lot of discussion about recent performances. We are the guys to take this forward. There is a bit more pressure but the guys are responding well to it and I am sure they will take to it very well.

"We have lost a lot of experienced players," he said in reference to the retirements of stars such as former captains Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio, prop forward Jason Leonard and back rower Neil Back. "It is time for players in the shadows to step up."

His Sale Sharks teammate, Mark Cueto, makes his debut on the wing and Gloucester's Andy Hazell is another newcomer to a back row which no longer looks like the fortress of Dallaglio, Back and Richard Hill.

But England should still be too strong for an Canadian lineup which was outplayed 51-6 by Italy on Saturday. Likewise, New Zealand is expected to overpower the Italians in Rome. Scotland, beaten 31-14 by Australia on Saturday, should bounce back by beating Japan and a talented Wales side should outplay Romania on Friday night.

The two standout games are France-Australia and Ireland-South Africa. French coach Bernard Laporte has recalled New Zealand-born center Tony Marsh for the game at the Stade de France. Marsh missed the successful Six Nations campaign because of a shoulder injury but replaces Yannick Jauzion, who drops to the bench.

"He is the coordinator for the backs and we want to see him again at the highest level," manager Jo Maso said.

With Clyde Rathbone scoring two of their four tries at Murrayfield and keeping Wendell Sailor off the starting lineup, the Australians were rampant in the first half against Scotland and went into halftime leading 28-0.

But Matt Giteau's second-half penalty was their only other score and Eddie Jones will need a full 80-minute performance from his team against the French.

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