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Last Updated: Monday, 10 November, 2003, 09:31 GMT
Bruised and on a breather

By Matt Dawson
England scrum-half

The whole England squad is still catching its breath after Sunday's win over Wales.

We know if we have another 40 minutes like we did in the first half next weekend, we will be on our way home and not involved in the game we want to be.

But we are certainly not despondent. We are in the semi-final of the World Cup, which is where we want to be.

Matt Dawson feels the force of a Welsh tackler
England struggled to find their way past Wales

We headed down to Sydney on Monday and enjoyed a chill-out day taking stock and recovering on the beach.

I also had to get some physio on my knee. I took a bang on it during the game and it is slightly twisted.

But it should be nothing and, having got on top of it early, I should be fine for the weekend.

Wales certainly made life pretty difficult with the way they came at us for so long.

After watching them play the All Blacks and seeing the side they picked, we expected that - it was not a surprise.

What maybe did take us aback though was how they maintained the pressure over such a sustained period of time.

Wales defended very, very well even when we managed to put multi-phases together.

But we have to make sure we take into consideration what went well even as we look at what we need to improve on.

Certainly our ball retention and decision-making at key moments were not always good.

We will do our preparation this week like any other week and any "clearing of the air" will be done behind closed doors.

If France play anywhere near like they did against Ireland we are going to be beaten

A lot of it though is probably mental rather than physical. We have done loads of training and playing lately and there were a lot of tired bodies after the game.

But we still know, if we play to our potential, we are a very difficult side to beat. We have proved that over the last couple of years and during this World Cup.

That doesn't change overnight or over a couple of weeks.

We haven't quite clicked yet in this tournament, but with a good rest this week we are still going to be in with a good chance.

There is no point talking about what we can improve next week. We are going to have to be at our best on Sunday because there are no half measures with this French side.

If they play anywhere near like they did against Ireland, and we play like we did against Wales, we are going to be beaten.

France are playing a really good all-round game and, with the size of their pack and the way their backs are playing at the moment, they are always going to be dangerous.

With Frederic Michalak also playing with a lot of confidence at fly-half they have a pretty potent recipe for success.

We have beaten them enough in recent years not to be intimidated by that, even if Sunday's match proved that history counts for nothing in these encounters.

A World Cup semi-final on neutral territory is a little bit different.





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