Rowell makes his merry men sweat

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The Independent Online
RUGBY UNION Will Carling, the England captain, and his huge England squad have dedicated their three days' warm-weather training in Lanzarote to rehearsing for the World Cup in South Africa next May.

They will concentrate on the opening Five Nations' Championship fixture against Ireland in less than three weeks when they return from the 80 degrees here to freezing England today.

"Our preparation has not been specific for our Dublin fixture. We are looking for an improvement for South Africa," Carling said.

"But the game in Ireland is a huge match for us. You could compare it with a World Cup opener. It sets the pattern for the rest of the tournament. Losing would be a near-nightmare but we have still to prove that our new style can work in the hotbed of the Five Nations' after scoring 54 then 60 points in our Autumn Tests.

"I am very confident that our new style of involving all 15 players in ball-handling can work. Compared with the 1991 and 1992 Grand Slam teams our forwards have potentially a different level of mobility. The last generation was a restricted, set-piece side. This lot looked to me as if they are operating in a higher league - and that is without disrespect to magnificent, winning players of recent years.

England's injury worries in their forwards are clearing up. Jason Leonard, who twisted an ankle on Friday, is walking comfortably, strapped up. Victor Ubogu acknowledges that his hamstring strain will keep him out of Bath's match this Saturday but said: "There are no problems about me playing in Ireland."

Ben Clarke, who strained his back on Friday and thought that he was wasting his time here, took a full part in line-out work yesterday But England are preparing to make a change at full-back. Paul Hull, who brought the Achilles tendon injury that he received against Canada on 10 December to the Canaries, has done no more than expected.

He cannot play against Bath this weekend, but if chosen for the Ireland match he must prove his fitness in Bristol's match at Sale on 14 January - one week before the Five Nations.

Jack Rowell, the manager, has decided that every possible moment of daylight available should be employed. He stunned the squad as they began their sixth training session in three days by announcing: "We will have another session at 8am tomorrow before our 10am departure. Most of you are tired, some of you for the wrong reasons. But you will all be tired if we are losing a Test match with 10 minutes to go."

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