Lomu is looming large for England

Click to follow
The Independent Online
STEVE BALE

reports from Sun City

While the England players have been resting up in this temple of mammon, the management has begun plotting the downfall of New Zealand - which looks marginally less difficult than it did before the quarter-finals but would still be a greater achievement than beating Australia.

It would be astounding if the team, to be named tonight for Sunday's semi-final in Cape Town, were not a re-selection, but areas of concern have been picked up.

Uppermost are the general problems of winning set-piece possession and the loose ball on which the All Blacks feed voraciously, as well as the specific one of how to stop the rampaging Jonah Lomu.

On the assumption that Tony Underwood, the scorer of England's quarter- final try, is retained, 13st 7lb will be pitted against Lomu's 19st. Hence the reason for speculation that the management might turn to Ian Hunter, though even then Lomu's opposite number would be conceding more than four stones.

Moreover, England would be giving away lethal strike potential, as Underwood showed at Newlands; and, anyway, opponents cannot hope to go through a game trying to contain the All Blacks; they have to go out positively to win it.

So Underwood should expect, quite rightly, to stay and the other problems, notably line-out possession and speed to the breakdown, England will seek to solve with present personnel. Ominously, Sean Fitzpatrick, the New Zealand captain, yesterday promised to eradicate the errors that characterised not only the quarter-final win over Scotland but also the defeat at Twickenham 19 months ago.

All Blacks have a habit of living up to such promises. "We let ourselves down," Fitzpatrick said. "We didn't play well as a team and I agree that was because of the problems England caused us.

"This time England have the same core of players. I am sure they will take some heart from that '93 game and this time they have also beaten the world champions. You can't ask for more. We don't mind who we play. To be world champions you have to beat them all. England have shown they can play winning rugby, and expansive even."

Yesterday in Lotus-land, the England players forgot Australia by playing golf, going on safari, lazing on the artificial beach, wandering through something called the Lost City or, in some fanatical cases, using the gymnasium.

The All Blacks also had a leisurely day, traipsing into Jo'burg last night for a meet-the-Blacks opportunity at a night-spot for which they will doubtless be handsomely rewarded. If the England players would like a consolation, their earning power - already said to be pushing pounds 30,000 each a year with a jersey sponsorship to be announced after the World Cup, is going up with every game.

Comments