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Home > Sports > News > Reuters > Report

Defence will be key for England

Greg Stutchbury in Sydney | November 20, 2003 16:14 IST
Last Updated: November 21, 2003 11:13 IST

Defence will be the key to the rugby World Cup final between defending champions Australia and world number one side England on Saturday, according to England defensive coach Phil Larder.

"I don't think it's any coincidence that you have got the two best defensive sides out there," Larder told reporters.

"We always respect the Australian defence, I'm sure they respect ours."

The England and Australian teams contest a scrumBoth sides laboured throughout the tournament until the semi-finals, when their superior defensive screens against New Zealand and France, respectively, proved to be match-winners.

The Wallabies have allowed just 58 points while England, who rely on the boot of flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson to kick them to victory, have conceded 71.

Larder, a former rugby league coach, designed the league-style defences for the England side, which many other countries have since emulated.

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Their defence was so strong that it was not breached until Samoa ran them ragged across, and up and down, the field for the first 20 minutes of their third pool match in Melbourne and Samoan captain Semo Sititi dived over in the corner.

The tactics used by Samoa were emulated by Wales in the first half of the quarter-final, which stretched the England team but never really threatened to break them, with Clive Woodward's side adding a try just after the break and Wilkinson slotting five penalties in 21 minutes to put the game beyond doubt.

Using their efficient game plan of controlling possession and kicking for territory, England have relied on teams to make mistakes in their own half, allowing Wilkinson to bang over penalties or drop goals when in range.

While some have criticised the style as boring, particularly compared to the attacking philosophy employed by John Mitchell's All Blacks and Bernard Laporte's Les Bleus, coach Woodward said his side would not abandon its game plan.

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"I thought Sunday night's game [the semi-final against France] was incredibly exciting," said Woodward of the five penalties and three drop goals slotted by Wilkinson in their 24-7 victory.

"I guess the Australians have seen nothing yet... if we want to play really boring, we'll play really boring rugby. But that was exciting for me."

"I think England play with a lot of width. I you look at the way we played in the last 12, 24 months, I think we have played with a lot of width.

"But you don't win the World Cup with width, you win the World Cup with winning."

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