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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 August 2007, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Ashton closes on World Cup squad
Brian Ashton and Lawrence Dallaglio
I suspect he is probably thinking he made a point when he came on

Brian Ashton on Lawrence Dallaglio's return
England coach Brian Ashton says he is closing in on the 30 players who will make his squad for the World Cup.

Ashton said the summer training camps and Saturday's 62-5 demolition of Wales had helped to firm up his opinions.

"When you work with these guys every day for four or five weeks you get to know what makes them tick," Ashton told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek.

"I'm certainly a lot further down the road than I was after the South Africa tour when I only knew four or five."

Ashton, who still has 40 players in his training squad, must finalise his final 30 after next Saturday's second warm-up Test against France, having thrashed Wales 62-5 at Twickenham in their first on Saturday.

"We had two objectives: number one was to win the game and number two was to put into operation all the defensive and attacking processes we had worked on," added Ashton.

"For large chunks of the game we managed to do that but that is tempered by the fact that we will get probably a lot more formidable opposition when the French come across next week and certainly when we go to Marseille.

For a 10-minute spell in the second half we created pretty clear scoring chances and in different ways, we blew them

Brian Ashton

"While I am very pleased, I am not jumping up and down with delight.

"The players were very realistic after the game. They talked about enjoying themselves on Saturday night but knowing when they come back to camp they have still got a fair bit of work to do."

England scored nine tries in the match against an understrength and underperforming Wales side, but Ashton singled out finishing off opportunities as the main area his players needed to improve.

"I felt for a 10-minute spell in the second half we created pretty clear-cut scoring chances and in different ways, we blew them," said Ashton, who may well have been thinking of Joe Worsley's decision to try to score himself with two unmarked three-quarters outside him.

"That is a communication breakdown and while you might expect that from a team playing its first game of the season, we have to set our sights and standards higher than that."


Lawrence Dallaglio replaced the four-try number eight Nick Easter to make his latest return to Test rugby, and Ashton said the 2003 World Cup winner had done everything asked of him so far.

"He played really well in big games at the end of last season but had to convince us he was fit after his operation, and he has done.

"Then when he got the opportunity he had to show us he was still good enough to make that step from club rugby to international level. I would suspect he is probably thinking he made a point when he came on.

"He had a hard act to follow in Nick Easter but he made a pretty good stab at it. The level of what was happening up front certainly didn't drop when he came on."

England captain Phil Vickery
Vickery made way for Matt Stevens at half-time

England captain Phil Vickery was taken off with an ankle injury at half-time, but Ashton said there were no major concerns.

"It is not a serious injury. We were going to replace him anyway and give Matt Stevens a run. We just did it a bit earlier as a precaution," he said.

Vickery confirmed that his ankle would heal quickly.

"'It is only a soft tissue injury to the left ankle, and it will be fine. I could play again tomorrow if I had to," he said.

But Vickery said England would have to steel themselves for a much more testing encounter against France on Saturday.

"It will be very difficult - they are always tough encounters, and I know from (Vickery's Wasps team-mate and France captain) Raphael Ibanez how disappointed they were about losing to England in the Six Nations."

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