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Saturday, 23 November, 2002, 16:26 GMT
England World Cup favourites?
Ben Cohen has scored three tries in England's last two games
England crush 14-man South Africa 53-3 at Twickenham to complete a southern hemisphere clean-sweep.

Are England on course for World Cup glory?

This debate is now closed.

England added South Africa's scalp to those of Australia and New Zealand with another fine display at Twickenham.

South Africa had Jannes Labuschagne sent off after 23 minutes for a late tackle on Jonny Wilkinson, and England never looked back.

Tries from Ben Cohen, Will Greenwood (2), Neil Back, Richard Hill, Lawrence Dallaglio and a penalty try gave England a resounding win.

Are England currently the world's best side? And can they carry their form south?

I can't believe some of the comments by our southern hemisphere friends! For years they have believed that they were God's gift to rugby, but now that France, England and Ireland are turning the tables they have to start making excuses about under-strength teams.

Despite that fact that they have rested players, the real reason for defeat is that southern hemisphere forward play is weak. If they don't start competing upfront it's going to be a France versus England final next year.
Tom Frackowiak, England

I hope England develop the big match temperament to go with their excellent skill levels and discipline
Rodney Lowe, England

I am so bored of hearing all these Australian types bleating about having to produce the goods away from home, hard dry pitches, blah, blah, blah. Of course the England team and fans know this, but you can only beat what's in front of you and it is hardly surprising that we're happy having done exactly that.

The only southern hemisphere team to leave with any credit is the All Blacks, who clearly have tremendous strength in depth - particularly in the backs.

The Australians played pretty much their best team and were well beaten, despite the score line. The Springboks were a complete embarrassment. The World Cup will be between England France and the All Blacks.
Rob, UK

When England beat a full-strength Australian team on their home turf people in Australia might take their ranking seriously. Remember, a sign of a champion side is one who can win anywhere in matches that count - something England can't seem to do!
Mike, Australia

Not even the greatest cynics can argue that England are rightly number one. I do, however, think that Woodward has shown his cards too early. I doubt whether the team will get much better, and the southern hemisphere boys will go away and plan their downfall.

Knowing a thrashing of SA was on the cards, why didn't Woodward look at cover for key positions and give understudies a run out? Next year will be too late.
Tony Rees, England

Winning at home and winning away are two very big different things
Rich Gregory, UK

When was the last time England won in the southern hemisphere? When was the last time they even had the guts to play there? Face it, if they travelled half way round the world and played in a different climate in front of non-supportive crowds, they would struggle big time.

As touched on below, they have struggled in away matches against the Six Nations teams when the pressure has been on.

In short, until you have beaten even one of these teams away from home, you cannot consider yourself in the top four in the world. Until you win in Auckland you cannot call yourselves the best. Well done England on winning the three games. Enjoy the wins for what they were but don't get carried away.
Gary, UK

Recent results have shown that two of the northern hemisphere sides can live with the big three from the southern hemisphere. The World Cup as a tournament will be better for it, but anyone who doesn't make a southern team favourite for next year is deluding themselves.

However, the favourites are there to be beaten. I hope England develop the big match temperament to go with their excellent skill levels and discipline.
Rodney Lowe, England

Winning at home and winning away are two very big different things. England played well, but they are not the best.
Rich Gregory, UK

There is no doubt that this is an England team with talent, but the media is getting a little carried away

England have done very well to win three matches against the best sides in the world. I think they will still have to improve to beat the best in the World Cup, but the basics were there. In any case, the only reserve side we beat was South Africa.

I don't believe that teams with the likes of Randell, Lomu, Howlett, Merhtens and Spencer can be called reserves, and the Australians were hardly missing anyone. Why doesn't everyone support the team instead of knocking them down?
Chris, UK

Three good results at "Castle Twickenham" and the World Cup has already been booked in business class to London? Let's look at the facts: This England team has scraped results against NZ and Australia whilst performing reasonably against a 14 man SA team (with the aid of a penalty try).

There is no doubt that this is an England team with talent, but the media is getting a little carried away. The past three Grand Slam efforts have resulted in disappointment on foreign soil. With such consistency, is the prediction of England lifting the World Cup really likely? I would back NZ, Oz or France as winners

Let's take the last three games for what they were. Three very good performances against teams we need to beat consistently if we want to win the World Cup. Favourites though? Only in the media!
Paul, Dubai, UAE

When will the English learn? There's only one thing worse in the world than a bad loser, and that's a bad winner. Stop whinging when you win - you're never happy. Be glad that you beat a really rubbish South African side and stop being big girls' blouses - rugby is a VERY physical game, and if you can't take the heat....
A Scot, England

There is, and always was, only one favourite for the World Cup: the Kiwis
Mick Gunter, Switzerland

This seems like a flashback. This is what the media was saying before the last two World Cups and...? Two narrow wins at home over end of season and understrength NZ and Australia can hardly make England favourites for a tournament played on the other side of the world next year.

I've watched all of the games this autumn and there's been some great play, and I'm surprised no-one here is giving the French side the plaudits they deserve. Great side and I would expect to see them in the final next year.
Shon Davies, UK

There is, and always was, only one favourite for the World Cup, the Kiwis. Remember, rugby union is very much a minor sport in Australia and the ranks are so thin the ARU are purchasing a rugby league team as preparation.

South Africa, what is wrong with them? The Kiwis want this Cup badly and have the skill and the depth to do it. And the French must be a threat, their game has always suited the faster conditions and remember, the games will not be allowed to deteriorate into kicking competitions.
Mick Gunter, Switzerland

Why is it that no matter what England do, people still talk them down? The fact is England have beaten the All Blacks, Australia and South Africa on consecutive weekends and all we get is excuses.

Could over-confidence be England's downfall? Oh Yes!
Alex Wilson, Scotland

No doubt the excuses will keep on coming, but at the end of the day England will keep on winning. The World Cup is still a long way off, and the southern hemisphere will have to re-group themselves in the mean time, and no doubt they will.

But it is also worth bearing in mind that although New Zealand will be stronger by the time of the World Cup, the same can be said of England, as we have some very promising talent coming through as well.
Ed, England

I love rugby, and as a Scot know where we stand in world rugby. Are England so na´ve as to think that their recent victories against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, are anything but victories against trainee teams? In the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup, could over-confidence be England's downfall? Oh Yes!
Alex Wilson, Scotland

For all the RECORDS that anyone cites, surely we can't get away from the fact that the RECORD for the past three Six Nations championships shows that England will lose away from home when it counts (Scotland 2000, Ireland 2001, France 2002).

Beating a truly abysmal, depleted Springbok side in front of 75,000 home fans doesn't count for much in my book. I'm sure the Springboks have an equally good record at Ellis Park. My money is on the French.
Tom, SA

The titans of the south have fallen. There is a new world order
James, California, US

South Africa were poor today, and unlucky to lose a player. But...England were also very poor - a better side would have really put SA to the sword. We must improve our decision-making across the team if we are to win the World Cup.
Mark, UK

That the weak and experimental ABs still almost won could have been a matter rather of concern to England than jubilation, but they tightened up markedly in the game with Australia.

Were the Aussies less tuckered than they seemed? Who knows, perhaps England could themselves have found something more! As for the sorry South Africans, their teams' alarming slide has been going on for years now.

Hopefully the WC draw will allow a NZ v England final, with an England v Australia semi!
Dave, New Zealand

All three major southern hemisphere teams scalped in two weeks; a RECORD 18 straight victories at home, a RECORD four successive victories against SA, home and away; a RECORD points total against SA; a RECORD three straight victories against the world champions.

The titans of the south have fallen. There is a new world order. The facts speak for themselves. Things can only get better.
James, California, US

Only England, New Zealand or Australia can win next year
Patrick R. Wyatt, United Kingdom

England have played well, but at home against touring southern hemisphere sides. The current team shows promise but, until it's backed up by big tour wins, that's what it remains. Favourites will be the hosts, with NZ second, and maybe an upset by the French.
Tom, England

I'm glad there is a bit of sense on this topic. Rankings or not, NZ and Australia are still ahead of the rest. They are building to the World Cup and I think they, and NZ especially, will have gone from this tour feeling very confident.

One thing that has been shown is the incredible strength in depth in New Zealand. If the World Cup were to be held here, they would have a good chance but unfortunately it isn't and they don't.

I was at the England game this afternoon and they were very impressive. However, I have to agree with some of the graceless Antipodeans who love to rubbish England. We must tour regularly down under to be prepared for overseas World Cups. Only England, New Zealand or Australia can win next year.
Patrick R. Wyatt, United Kingdom

Well done England! Maybe the cricketers should take note. The World Cup will be tough, but England will do well.
Philip Sharp, Canada

The arrogance shown by the South African rugby fraternity sickens me and since the sacking of one of our greatest rugby captains of modern times, Gary Teichman, our rugby has suffered.

England have a habit of choking badly in real crunch pressure matches
David, Scotland

I have watched the last three games with huge admiration for the English team and can only say that on current form, in their own back yard, they are the best I have seen. The World Cup is theirs for the taking if they can perform on away turf. Well done England.
Trevor Beckett, South Africa

England winning the World Cup 11 months from now is wishful thinking. No matter what the rankings say, on a neutral venue, England are not even the best side in Europe. That title goes to France.
Dilshan Sena, Sri Lanka

England have got to beware of self-congratulating themselves and patting themselves on the backs too much, especially the English media as they usually do after the autumn internationals.

England have been in the same situation every autumn after taking the home scalps of both South Africa, and Australia, and now this year New Zealand as well (albeit their second string).

But England have a habit of choking badly in real crunch pressure matches on a yearly basis in the Six Nations and also previous World Cups. And if they fail to win the Grand Slam again England's credentials as potential 2003 Rugby World Cup winners will have taken a severe battering.
David, Scotland

This is a great platform to build for the World Cup next year, and you have to say on current performaces England are the best side in the world. Home advantage or not, England have just completed an historic treble over the big three southern hemisphere sides, and the nature of this latest victory should give next year's hosts serious cause for thought!
Steve, England

The hard, fast grounds in God's own won't suit the English style of play
Stu, Australia

Looks like England are clear favourites, and rightly so, but we should look out for the scabby Australians who are usually able to rise on big occaisions in all sporting events.
James Curran, England

Rarely have I witnessed such an appalling display of cynical, brutal, cheating from a team as I saw from South Africa today. The "Missing Link" is also confirmed as coming from Africa, he was wearing the green number 4 shirt.

The incident that lead to Jonny Wilkinson coming off was verging on the criminal, and I hope the player is cited and banned. There were countless incidents like that. And the highlight? Vickery flattening the dirtiest of them all, Fleck, a truly dreadful player.
Alec Baldwin, Scotland

There's no way this team who beat an under-strength, end of season, southern hemisphere line-up will have the goods to take the Cup next year. Whilst England have improved, they haven't played anywhere near well enough outside their beloved Twickers this season.

The hard, fast grounds in God's own won't suit the English style of play. Pull your heads out of your ***** England!
Stu, Australia

They're great at Twickenham, but will struggle abroad
Harry Dinesh, Aussie in England

If the World Cup was in the northern hemisphere then they would rightly be favourites. But it's in Oz, so until they can put a run together on the road, (not Edinburgh and Dublin) then they won't win it. Some All Black 2nd XV, by the way...
John Hughes, Scotland

This is a formidable England side, but South Africa were terrible. Like all good sides, England showed no mercy. South Africa reminded me of the hapless English cricket team.

Let's get real though - England will not win the World Cup. The Aussies will be very tough to beat on home turf. Woodward will push them into the semis possibly, but they'll meet their match somewhere along the line. They're great at Twickenham, but will struggle abroad.
Harry Dinesh, Aussie in England

Although England have defeated all three southern hemisphere teams in this series of Tests, to beat these teams away is the real test for England.

With the World Cup being in Australia, England cannot go as favourites as this must surely go to Australia. With the home crowd Australia are almost unbeatable as was shown when the Lions toured there last year. I expect to see England in the semis at least, and if they can avoid Australia should make it to the final, but as for favourites I believe it has to be Australia and then England.
Philip Chapman, England

England should be pleased with getting to the semi-finals and see where it goes from there
Barney, England
Why do you media people always do this to England? Why assume that because it is possible to beat under-strength sides at Twickenham that this can be replicated during a World Cup tournament in Australia?

England are NOT favourites. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will still be ahead of them come next year. England should not go into the competition with this weight of expectation on them (same as happens with the football team).

England should be pleased with getting to the semi-finals and see where it goes from there.
Barney, England

Absolutely stunning! Surely no-one can argue about England's number one position now. On current form they're the very best in the world. The Springboks were lacklustre, embarrassing even, but England punished them like true world-beaters.

England can win the World Cup, but things will be much tougher in the southern hemisphere. With this team though, nothing is impossible.
Sharon Goma, England

The rugby World Cup is ELEVEN months away. England have the small matter of the Six Nations (their last game is in Dublin again!) followed by a pre-RWC mini-tour to contend with.

England can beat anyone in the world at Twickenham, but we will not win the World Cup
Freddie, England

A lot can happen in the meantime. For example, the Aussie squad will have been through the Super 12s, pre-Tri Nations friendlies, and Tri Nations. New Zealand's depth of players looks phenomenal after John Mitchell used the tour for what it should be, a try out.
Justin Deegan, Norway

I don't think England are on course for World Cup victory. They have a pattern of losing the important matches. It is fine that they have beaten Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, but I am afraid they will wilt at the World Cup.
Chris, Canada

How can you say that England are favourites for the World Cup? New Zealand has 21 of its top players back home resting from a hard season and injuries, some of the new lads had not even played together until the England game.
George Massie, New Zealand

England can beat anyone in the world at Twickenham, but we will not win the World Cup as we can't seem to pull it together away from home.
Freddie, England

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