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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 06:26 GMT
Leonard upbeat on England
By Julian Shea

World Cup winner Jason Leonard
England legend Jason Leonard says the team face a daunting test against Tri-Nations champions South Africa but they have the players to meet the challenge.

Andy Robinson's team are still to face South Africa and Australia this autumn, meeting the Springboks for the first time since the World Cup.

"They have lightning-fast backs, tough forwards and want revenge," he said.

"Everyone says they're good but it's too late - they should have done it at the World Cup."

After England's comfortable warm-up win over Canada, the Springboks will provide the first serious test for new coach Andy Robinson and new captain Jason Robinson.

Andy likes the French style, to keep the ball alive, so I think we'll a fast-flowing, attacking game from England
Jason Leonard

Speaking at a ceremony to launch a new DVD of his career highlights, Leonard told BBC Sport that England fans can look forward to a bold new approach from the new coach.

"I think Andy's team will play a lot less structured than Clive Woodward's team," he said.

"He likes to read the game a lot more so it comes down to what people see in front of them - he likes the French style, to keep the ball alive, so I think we'll a fast-flowing, attacking game from England."

Leonard also gave his backing to the choice of livewire fullback Jason Robinson as captain in the absence of the injured Jonny Wilkinson.

"Jason's a great choice. He's doing a great job at Sale, and in a way he'll be like Martin Johnson - he's not a screamer and a shouter, neither was Martin, he was someone who let his actions do the talking for him.

"But when they do say something, you stop and listen."

With the captain now at the back of the field, Leonard said this may increase the need for Robinson to lead by example.

"He'll be able to see a lot more from where he is, but whether he'll be able to get that through to people up front is a different matter," he said.

"He'll want to take control of the game with his own game."

A year on from the World Cup triumph that propelled Leonard and his team-mates from rugby heroes to household names, England's journey to defending that title in France in 2007 is well under way.

Leonard says England's prospects are already good, and the sides Andy Robinson picks in the autumn Tests could be a pointer towards what sort of England team will be trying to retain the William Webb Ellis Trophy in three years' time.

"There are experienced players who are still involved, like Jason Robinson and Mike Tindall, and there are youngsters coming through," he said.

"There's Andy Titterell, Steve Thompson's only in his early to mid 20s, and there are other players waiting in the wings for their chance of stardom.

"Andy Robinson won't be scared to try a few people out over the next couple of weeks."

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