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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October, 2003, 07:04 GMT 08:04 UK
Brooke: England still favourites

By Zinzan Brooke
Former All Blacks number eight

Lewis Moody (top left), Kyran Bracken (with ball) and Lawrence Dallaglio in action against South Africa
Moody, Bracken and Dallaglio have given other teams plenty to ponder
The big talk in Australia is that England did not play that well against the Springboks.

I do not agree. And I think that some of the teams need to re-think their attitude to England if they want to stop them.

True, the England guys did not play at their best, but they consolidated well under pressure and came away with a convincing win.

Yes, there were weaknesses. England really missed Richard Hill.

Hill is not a Flash Harry, but he makes few mistakes. He is a guy who always performs at 90%-plus.

With the amount he plays, internationally and with Saracens, it is amazing he sets himself such a high standard and keeps reaching it.

But that is not a criticism of Lewis Moody - Hill's replacement.

Moody was in a pressure situation, replacing someone who, I feel, is probably the best blind-side flanker in the world at the moment.

This is not what people down under will want to read - this World Cup is England's to lose

He got the knockdown for Will Greenwood's try, and that put a sheen on his display, although I thought there was a touch of offside involved in that score. However they came though, you still take 'em.

But that aside, Moody did well - as did Kyran Bracken as Matt Dawson's replacement.

One moment summed up Bracken for me.

When Greenwood lost his head, forgot to tap the ball down and produced possibly the longest forward pass in rugby history, I did not think South Africa would get anything from their five-metre scrum.

England fans celebrate victory over South Africa
Will England fans be smiling on World Cup final day
Even before the scrum went down I thought, 'this is going to get turned over here', because Bracken's going to have a go at their number eight.

Sure enough, he did, their guy knocked on, it was turned over and England cleared.

Clive Woodward's a lucky man to have so many good scrum-halves.

Dawson, Bracken and Andy Gomarsall are all very close, with perhaps Dawson just ahead, but they are probably three of the best half-backs you'll find in any team in the world.

This is not what people down under will want to read, but this World Cup is England's to lose.

If you play badly and win by that many points, it does not bode well for the opposition

Too many Australians cannot come to terms with this fact. They are always side-stepping the issue and making excuses.

George Gregan was in the press saying there were flaws in the England side.

Sure there are, but there are in every side.

Yes they played badly against the Springboks, but they won by nearly 20 points and, in the end, it was a bit of a hiding.

The scoreline, when you look at how the sides rate in the rugby world, was every bit as convincing as when New Zealand beat Canada, or what England are likely to do to Uruguay.

Do not get me wrong - South Africa played as well as I think they could have, and showed the sort of tenacity every side will need if they want to beat England.

But if England got it right on the day, they would have been 30 or 40 points clear.

They are accurate and business-like, even when off-form, and they will offer a lot more if the backs can gel better.

And if you play badly and win by that many points, it does not bode well for the opposition.





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