Despite fast start a tough job lies ahead

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The Independent Online
Just as I hoped it would when I wrote my column on Saturday, the England v Australia game at Wembley was just what was needed to kick-start the World Cup and bring it right into the public's imagination.

On our best stage, in front of a lively crowd of over 41,000, I felt from my viewpoint in the England second row that we had produced an exciting opening fixture and a game that could have gone either way.

The first-half was extremely tough and tense out there. The pace and the intensity of it meant that both sides began to give a little and the game opened up in the second half. Both teams had high error counts, and in the end it was those mistakes and the way in which they were capitalised upon that decided the outcome.

Before I left Australia for this World Cup, the great Australian coach, Jack Gibson, had a couple of words of advice for me. "Always think defence," he told me.

Lee Jackson and Barrie-Jon Mather certainly seemed to have taken similar advice to heart the way they closed in on John Hopoate for the crucial tackle of the match.

As Hopoate will need no reminding, Jason Robinson pounced on the loose ball and punished that error.

Paul Newlove could be deemed fortunate to intercept for the try that put us 20-10 ahead, and we needed that score because Steve Menzies scored his second of the match near the end.

I would not be at all surprised if Menzies ends the tournament as its leading try-scorer, which would be a remarkable achievement for a forward, but I also thought that Dean Pay and Mark Carroll had tremendous games in the Australian pack, and their three-quarter line always looked dangerous.

For England, Andy Platt and Karl Harrison stuck admirably to their job and Jackson came up with some important relieving runs.

John Bentley was an unsung hero with his high work-rate, but perhaps the most important thing we must take out of this game is the knowledge that Australia react very positively to defeat. We know we will have to play considerably better if we meet them in the final.

It's a sporting cliche, but there is a long way to go in this tournament. We have to work on getting more cohesion into our play, but this win will give us the confidence to go on with the job.