Rowell forces England to watch video nasties

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If England lose to Western Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday it will be their fourth defeat in a row. Jack Rowell, the England coach, did not need reminding. "I know," Rowell said, somewhat sniffily. "I trained as an accountant."

To prevent such a debacle, the squad have been given extra homework, adopting the role of film critic.

England have used videos before but now they have gone for the personal touch. Following the 24-14 defeat against South Africa at Twickenham each player was given a video of his individual performance and told to watch the film at home. For most of them it would have made uncomfortable viewing, almost akin to a horror movie. At least that is how Rowell saw it. "This time we want to make amends," big Jack said. "We didn't tackle well. English rugby has a problem playing against the power runners and there were a lot of errors. I wasn't happy with any of the three tries they scored. It would be easy to say we hadn't played together for five months but we aspire to world-class recognition. We were highly motivated but we didn't follow the game plan. Our effort was totally dissipated."

Rowell kept referring to the game plan and seemed to be at a loss to understand how England failed to follow it against the Springboks. "England have got to get up," Rowell said. "We have got to find out who's running and who's walking, mentally and physically. The stop-start game has been rapidly outmoded since theWorld Cup and either we get into it or we are going to be left behind. England owes the nation a big one on Saturday. They owe themselves a big one."

England have been working on tackling, scrummaging, almost everything, it seems. "More pressure work," Rowell said, "to expurgate the high error rate." So it is back to the game plan and Rowell admitted that a lot will depend on the new half-backs, Paul Grayson and Matt Dawson. "Our kick- offs were lamentable the last time," Rowell lamented. "We kept kicking the ball back to their powerful pack."

While acknowledging that Western Samoa were not the world champions, Rowell was also at pains to point out that they were no walkover. "Any team that goes to Murrayfield and gets a draw against Scotland deserves respect," he said. "Their running backs are equivalent to the best of New Zealand and they have beefed up their forward play."

Over the weekend England players will again be presented with a video of their performance. It is called notational analysis and the idea is borrowed from American football. "It's better than just looking at cold statistics," Rowell said. "The videos are designed to help, to show the players exactly what they are doing in the game."

However, Rowell agreed that England, who trained yesterday without the captain, Will Carling, who has a cold, could have their focus blurred by the uncertainty surrounding players' contracts.

"There are things floating around in players' minds," Rowell said. "They're thinking if I sign this will there be something bigger around the corner? Should my lawyer see it?"

The RFU could respond, of course, by pointing out that the one thing the players' lawyers would not want to see is the video nasty of England's miserable defeat against South Africa.

WESTERN SAMOA: V Patu; B Lima, T Vaega, G Leaupepe, A Telea; D Kellett, J Filemu; M Mika, T Leiasamaivao, P Fatialofa, P Leavasa, L Falaniko, S Kaleta, P Lam (capt), S Vaifale. Replacements: K Tuigamala, A Autagavaia, S Smith, M Birtwistle, G Latu, O Matauiau.

England's debutants, page 27