Injury cloud over Carling

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THE England captain, Will Carling, is almost certain to miss his first international for six years when his side's World Cup campaign continues against Italy in Durban on Wednesday. Carling limped off with a bruised thigh and ankle in the second half of yesterday's unconvincing victory over Argentina.

Carling and England's medical team will decide tomorrow whether an X- ray is needed on the ankle that has troubled him since he damaged it in training last week. Carling's recovery rate from damaging injuries has meant that he has been ever- present since missing a game in Romania in 1989, despite numerous scares.

Yesterday's hero Rob Andrew, the only other man to have captained England since Carling's reign began in 1988, is set to lead the side against Italy. But in the aftermath of yesterday's match, Andrew said: "We have got to get our game together or we may not even get to the quarter-finals."

The England manager, Jack Rowell, agreed that England were vulnerable in a tough pool, with the Western Samoans lying in wait after the Italians. "If we do not improve, we will go home faster than we came out," Rowell said.

"None of our plans bore fruit and when we moved forward we made too many errors. We can only go up from here. We try to play a low error-rate game, but yesterday it was high error-rate. There may have been a weight of expectancy on us, but there is not any more. Isn't it typical that when England are expected to win easily they win unconvincingly? If we reach the quarter-finals against the more established teams we will have problems."

Rowell paid tribute to the kicking ability of Andrew: "Rob's points again won the match for us, but if he had had an off-day - and he will one day - that would have been that. We have got to bounce back and play the rugby we aspire to or the writing is on the wall. The team are very disappointed, especially because they know that they can play far better."

Andrew added: "There are all sorts of areas we now need to concentrate on, but we're not a bad side just because of one very bad performance."