RUGBY UNION : Carling in show of confidence

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The Independent Online
Will Carling lay back and thought of Scotland yesterday and came up with this unarguable conclusion about tomorrow's Grand Slam match at Twickenham: "I believe if we fulfil our potential, then we will win the game. We are good enough.''

But then the England captain was made to think of the previous Grand Slam match at Murrayfield in 1990 and so to think again. "We were good enough in 1990 and we didn't win the game," he said. Carling insists it is the events of last year rather than five years ago that have impinged on English preparations for tomorrow's encounter.

His England have long since moved on: "Now in world terms England are viewed with some respect, which they have earned. Maybe in 1990 they still hadn't earned it." The change is such that England are realistic World Cup contenders, though this is not a thought Carling will allow until tomorrow's final whistle.

"Conditions haven't replicated what we will come across in Durban so it's been hard to play the kind of rugby we know we need to play out there. But we've still progressed significantly as a team and in terms of the style of play we saw was necessary when we were there last year.''

Never mind the Grand Slam, a senior Scot yesterday warned. "The world will not judge us on how we do in the Five Nations," Ken Milne said as the Scottish team flew from Edinburgh to Heathrow. "We shouldn't get too excited just because we've had four wins this season. We've been getting better and we'll have to improve still more if we are to do anything in the World Cup.''

England will make a decision on the fitness of their reserve hooker, Graham Dawe, this morning and have Gregg Botterman of Saracens rather than the Bath flanker-turned-hooker Gareth Adams on stand-by. Dawe strained a calf on Wednesday and did not train yesterday.

In South Africa the England A captain, Steve Bates, has withdrawn from the team to play Natal tomorrow and has been replaced at scrum-half by Matthew Dawson of Northampton with Bates's Wasps understudy Andy Gomarsall being flown in to sit on the bench. John Hall will now lead the side.

The Ireland captain, Terry Kingston, who has had a rib injury, was passed fit in Dublin yesterday before he and his team travelled to Wales for tomorrow's wooden spoon match. "Terry's fitness is a blessed relief," The Irish manager, Noel Murphy, declared.

Five Nations focus, page 46