"It's not something I've ever taken for granted," Carling said yesterday. "With Jack Rowell around, everyone is under pressure." Not least Carling himself, who has produced as good an international season as he has since becoming England captain.
"He is now far advanced from the lad who was appointed England skipper in 1988 aged just 22," Rowell, the manager/coach, said. "I want a team who can self-regulate, make their own decisions on the field and handle their problems in the heat of battle. With Carling in charge, I have no fears."
Yesterday Carling's attention turned to the World Cup. "We are feeling extremely confident after winning the Slam but we still believe the southern hemisphere nations are ahead of us in a lot of ways," he said.
Of great concern to Carling in this context is Dean Richards's sprung rib cartilage, an injury that normally takes six to eight weeks to heal and so will keep the No 8 out at least until the cup final if Leicester get there, and take him perilously close to England's departure for South Africa.
The same can be said of Scotland's Bath prop, Dave Hilton, who also has a sprung rib cartilage, and Peter Wright, who played on despite dislocating a collar bone. Although Eric Elwood, the Ireland stand-off, was feared to have broken his neck when he was carried off against Wales after a late tackle by Richie Collins, X-ray examination has revealed nothing more than severe bruising.
Meanwhile, the scathing criticism by England's Brian Moore of Scotland's supposed negativity finally produced this equally scathing response by Douglas Morgan, the Scots' coach: "There is a lot of talk in Scotland about Will Carling and Rob Andrew but England's real problem is Brian Moore. I've met both of the other lads and I would be happy to have a drink with them any time, but I wouldn't give Moore the time of day."
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