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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2007, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Zinzan Brooke column
Ex-New Zealand rugby great Zinzan Brooke
By Zinzan Brooke
All Blacks legend

It has been a positive start to the World Cup - unless you are an England supporter of course

Since the opening game we have had no real upsets but a couple of close-run things.

Jason Robinson
Can England cope without the injured Robinson?

The underdogs have shown up well on the big stage and even Portugal put their hands up against the All Blacks and got a well-earned try.

After living in the UK for the last 10 years, I tried to be optimistic on England's behalf and thought they might actually front up against South Africa.

All the talk beforehand was that they were up for it but it just didn't happen. They were outclassed and out-muscled in every facet of the game.

South Africa had so much passion and commitment and were quicker in every department.

In hindsight, all the indications were there it was going to happen. I know England didn't have a full-strength team when they went to South Africa in the summer but two 50-point scores against you is not exactly a confidence booster.

The World Cup is a different scenario but the England camp must be in bits now. They must be thinking 'are we going to get through the pool stages?' because they have a couple of games now against very physical teams.

England should beat Samoa on Saturday but the Samoans will realise England are up for grabs now.

I would sack Mike Ford - he's an idiot and should get a red card from the rest of the camp

Like all Pacific Island teams, if you give them the ammunition, they grow as a team and make life very difficult for you.

But if you starve them of possession, they get frustrated and can lose discipline and end up getting yellow and sometimes red cards.

It appears Jonny Wilkinson is going to be all right for England but he does not want to be running around making classical Jonny tackles against the Samoans. They will be right on his case.

It is a shame Jason Robinson is injured. He was England's one shining light against South Africa. He actually sparked some life into them. Goodness knows what they will be like once he retires after the World Cup. It is a scary prospect.

I just do not understand what England are doing with their substitutions. Why did they take Tom Rees off against the Springboks? It was stupid.

Ben Kay
Kay said some players were close to tears after Friday's defeat

He is 22, one of the only flyers in the team and they bring on Lewis Moody, who is mad as a hatter, but great at smacking anything that moves.

I would have taken Ben Kay off after that silly chip kick and moved Martin Corry into the second row. But it is too late now. You have got to make good decisions in the pressure situations and it is frustrating to watch England in that respect.

As for the assistant coach Mike Ford saying England have not got any world-class players, that is ridiculous. He is an idiot. You might think it but you do not say it.

You keep it in camp, stick the zipper on and take your medicine. I would sack Ford. He should get a red card from the rest of the camp.

I'm a little bit worried about the All Blacks at the moment. I just think the matches they are playing are a bad dress rehearsal for the real thing and the draw might actually be their Achilles heel.

Every other team in the quarter-finals will have had games where they have had to work for the win. And in the worst-case scenario for New Zealand they get France, who showed they are closer to where they want to be against Namibia.


The French have to put in a big game against Ireland on Friday or they are gone - and I do not see the Irish stopping them. They have slipped up badly.

Eddie O'Sullivan must be concerned because I do not think you are going to see anything new from Ireland. It is not as if it is only one or two individuals - the whole lot of them were terrible against Namibia and again against Georgia.

They were not clean-cut at all, very messy, and I thought there was going to be an upset - the Georgians were a bit unlucky in the end. If they had been a bit more clinical, they could have pipped them.

I am not sure Ireland can galvanise themselves in such a short space of time. You need consistency and continuity when you have a big game coming up because it only takes a couple of things to go wrong and everything goes belly up.

But the great thing for the Irish is they will not be favourites. That is where they can come to the party. They prefer to blow out the candles rather than celebrate them.

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