Thu, Aug 23, 2007 - Page 19 News List

England have a lot of catching up to do, Andrew admits

AFP , LONDON

Rugby Football Union (RFU) director of elite rugby Rob Andrew admits England have a lot of catching up to do if they are to mount a credible World Cup defense.

England have lost 15 of their last 16 away matches and now have just three weeks to turn things around after their recent back-to-back Test defeats to World Cup hosts France.

But Andrew remains confident that Saturday's 22-9 defeat in Marseille is not a true reflection of what is to come at the World Cup.

"You need to look at England in the context of what has happened in the last 12 months -- the coaching changes that have taken place, the issues we had in the Six Nations and surrounding the South Africa tour," Andrew said.

"England have probably had only five weeks of rugby preparation this summer. They have chosen to train incredibly hard in Test match weeks, which is not usual, in order to make up for lost time." he said.

"It is no surprise Brian [Ashton], the coaches and players themselves are a little bit frustrated. The last two weeks haven't taken them where they want to go," Andrew said.

"Clearly, there are some creative and finishing issues they will have to work on in the next few weeks. Big games are won by small margins and England need to find a way of unlocking one or two half chances," he said.

"They have still got a lot of work to do and a lot of catching up to do -- but there is a huge determination to do that. I'd be surprised if there is a group of players who have worked harder anywhere in the world than England. They have put an enormous amount of foundation work in and they are incredibly determined to deliver on the big stage," Andrew said.

Andrew is confident England now have the foundations from which to launch their campaign in a ferocious group which also features hard-hitting Tonga and Samoa.

"We know the challenge South Africa will pose and we know from our experiences in the summer what is required to face down the that challenge," he said.

"Physicality, defense and set-pieces are vital at a World Cup. The England coaches have worked really hard to put those basic foundations back into our game so we can compete with anyone on that forward front," Andrew said.

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