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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 08:28 GMT
Marsh backs England

By Bryn Palmer
BBC Sport in Sydney

France centre Tony Marsh believes England have the complete package for World Cup glory.

The New Zealand-born midfielder was on the receiving end as Martin Johnson's men prevailed 24-7 in Sunday's semi-final.

France centre Tony Marsh
Marsh shows his despondency after losing in the semi-final

And despite predicting a "pretty close call" against Australia, Marsh believes England are capable of taking the hosts' crown.

"Australia played really well against the All Blacks and are are going to be hard to beat on home soil," Marsh told the BBC Sport website.

"But England definitely have something, and to me they are probably the more complete side.

"They are very strong up front, good at the set-pieces and have guys that will go forward all the time.

"The backline is pretty handy as well and, with a guy like Jonny Wilkinson, they are always going to score points."

France were repeatedly punished for their mistakes as England's fly-half reaffirmed his standing as the world's premier points scorer.

"Wilkinson has had a lot of critics, especially in the last couple of weeks, and I think he answered those," Marsh reflected.

"The hard part about it was that every time they came into our half they seemed to score points, and that is the sign of a good team.

"But the biggest thing going for them is still their defence.

"They move up so quickly, especially in midfield, and it is so hard to score points against them.

We prepared well but, once we were on the field, we really struggled and things fell apart
Tony Marsh

"It puts pressure on you as a team and we didn't handle that pressure well."

Marsh admitted he felt victory was slipping away from France in the wet conditions as early as half-time.

And despite his admiration for England, the 31-year-old believes the pain of defeat was all the harder for much of it being self-inflicted.

"We prepared well but, once we were on the field, we really struggled and things fell apart," he said.

"If you play to your ability then you can accept that, but we made far too many mistakes.

"We were quite consistent in the tournament but we probably haven't played to our full potential, which is hugely disappointing."

Marsh must now turn his attention to Thursday's third-place play-off against his native country.

Having battled to overcome testicular cancer to be at the World Cup, he remains positive about a match many regard as an irrelevance.

"I would rather it was for first place than third," he added. "But from a personal point of view I am looking forward to playing the All Blacks.

"It is probably going to be hard for the boys to get up for the game, but it is the same for New Zealand."

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