Phil Vickery: England have the tools to win Rugby World Cup 2015
Phil Vickery says that England have all the tools needed to win the Rugby World Cup 2015
World Cup winner Phil Vickery has blamed Stuart Lancaster for England’s problems in the set piece during their warm-up fixtures and has called for consistency in selection.
Vickery formed a formidable front row partnership in 2003 alongside Steve Thompson and Trevor Woodman, with the evergreen Jason Leonard an impact player off the bench.
The former Wasp believes consistent selection by Sir Clive Woodward in the 12 months prior to the tournament ensured each player knew their roles in the scrum and at line-out time, giving England an advantage at the World Cup in the tight.
Fast forward 12 years and it’s a very different situation altogether for Lancaster – he fielded two completely different front rows in the opening warm-up games against France and as a result the set piece looked a shambles, according to Vickery.
It seems there is still uncertainty over who will start for England against Fiji on September 18, with Mako Vunipola, David Wilson and Rob Webber pushing the likely first choice front row of Joe Marler, Tom Youngs and Dan Cole hard for a starting spot.
England’s backline obviously sparkled in this year’s Six Nations – George Ford and Jonathan Joseph particularly catching the eye – but Vickery believes the foundations of that success was founded on a watertight set piece.
And the World Cup winner is calling on England to return to basics as the countdown to their opener against Fiji ticks ever closer.
“If I had to criticise the England management, remember I stand here as a supporter and a fan, it’s that I still don’t know what my starting XV is and that’s a real worry,” said Vickery, who is encouraging people to show their support of children’s rugby franchise, Rugbytots, as they take to the roads to tackle their impressive World Cup Bike Ride, raising vital funds for Wooden Spoon – the children’s charity of rugby.
“I think there is still allot of question marks over a number of positions and also selections. I think one thing Stuart and the coaches haven’t done particularly well is use this last 12 months to convince us and convince the squad and the players that this is my starting team.
“I know you have to keep options open but I think there’s still so much to play for, that in the back of their minds they will have an idea but it hasn’t really worked and I think that’s one of the scary things looking ahead to the Fiji, Wales and Australia games.
“England could have gone into the start of the World Cup having come off the back of a couple of losses and with a team that’s not really functioning that well.
“It’s a huge responsibility not just on the front row to show what they can do but also on the team more generally.
“The fundamental basis of international rugby is as relevant today as it was when I was playing and that’s your scrum, your line out, your defence and your kick chase – those very basic skills are crucial, and that’s what disappointed me over in France two weeks ago.”
Lancaster picked a strong front row for the visit of Ireland at the weekend, with Marler, Youngs and Cole all combining for England.
But Vickery is concerned that only Cole is a guaranteed starter for England and has called on the trio to find some form as a unit.
“Dan Cole been the cornerstone of the England pack for a number of years now and he has got over his recent injury problems, which is great,” added Vickery.
“He hasn’t shown a huge amount of form, perhaps on the international team at least – but he is someone I said a couple of months ago is the only person I would have down as a guaranteed starter – that’s a big concern.
“I think that loose head battle is pretty fierce and I think Joe Marler has certainly made the shirt his own, I know he’s had his injuries and did not have a particularly good year last year at Harlequins with captaincy and that type of thing.
“I think Mako Vunipola offers a different kind of player, with potentially more impact, although I don’t like to just say he just an impact player. I think he can be a lot more but we have two varying props there, which I think is always good from a selection point of view but it’s up to those two really now, to really fight it out and get the best out of each other.
“You have got to keep those little mini battles going and I’m really excited for the front row because they had a tough time against France .
“The England pack won’t need much more motivation and when you add a World Cup starting position, little inter battles against your opposite number to get that shirt and then the history of the World Cup – it’s exciting.”
If you’d like to sponsor the riders, who over four gruelling days of cycling, took in iconic stadiums in England and Wales who’ll play host to Rugby World Cup matches visit www.justgiving.com/teams/rugbytots For more information about who Wooden Spoon support, visit www.woodenspoon.org.uk