Plaudits aplenty for Cape crusaders

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reports from Johannesburg

England and Australia are circling each other in the elaborate courtship ritual that precedes big games nowadays. Sunday's World Cup quarter-final in Cape Town will be played out between members of a mutual admiration society.

As Will Carling's team are down in fifth place in the betting - behind New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and France in that order - there is greater credibility in his fulsome praise for his imminent opponents than in theirs for England. "I still think they are a great side," he said.

On the other hand, the Wallabies have been rubbished back home, especially for the opening defeat by the Springboks, and the downbeat air in the Australian camp is palpable compared with England's quiet confidence.

"England are a very complete side," Bob Dwyer, Australia's coach, said yesterday. "The thing which is of most concern to teams playing them is that they play in such a way that they shut you out of the game. They win first-phase ball and then control it very well."

In this respect, Dwyer is especially anxious about the English line-out. Martin Bayfield, at 6ft 10in England's principal jumper, made the admission yesterday that he never failed to cheat when contesting for the ball - a remark that excited considerable attention here even though it was simply a statement of the obvious.

"You cheat because the opposition cheats," Bayfield said. "You get away with what you can. In an ideal world I would be a fair jumper, but you check to see what things the referee is picking up, like barging and leaning, and play on that."

England's world traveller, Andy Gomarsall, arrived from Australia last night to act as scrum-half cover in case Kyran Bracken cannot sit on the bench at Newlands. The Wasp's journey looks as if it will not have been necessary as Bracken emerged unscathed from yesterday's practice. The squad move to Cape Town today.