Rugby Union: Carling praises Cooke's recipe

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WILL CARLING started his fifth year as England captain by paying tribute yesterday to the contribution of his manager, Geoff Cooke, to the team's double Gram Slam success. He said he had been 'incredibly lucky' with the calibre of players available to him during his time as captain. 'People will surely look back and say they are the best England team of all time.'

Carling, in Lanzarote for England's training session, said: 'Basically we are successful because Geoff Cooke created the environment in which the players want to surpass anything they have achieved before.' With England due to play France at Twickenham in a fortnight, Carling and his squad were warned by Cooke that past triumphs count for little in the Five Nations' Championship.

Carling backed Cooke's warning, but he said: 'I enjoy being stimulated by the pressure. I am always aware of the responsibility of having to come up with fresh ideas all the time and of the need to galvanise the players into breaking new ground.'

Carling uses his background as a psychology student and his job as adviser to industrial and business managers to help prepare his team. 'I learn a lot through talking to industralists and I read books on leadership and management all the time. But with this England side so well established there is only the requirement of fine tuning.

'As a selector, I pass on the views of senior players to the management and the players are normally the best judge of which newcomers will fit into the character of the side. As captain you can't set out to be friends with everyone.'

Carling is aware of the great expectations for England in 1993. 'We scored plenty of tries in 1990 and established our style, though we ultimately lost out,' he said. 'It was safety first in our first Grand Slam in 1991, but we expanded with three times as many tries in our second Grand Slam last winter. 'We averaged 30 points a match in 1992 and we are convinced that we are most effective when we run the ball.'

Meanwhile, England gave no clues about possible changes for the team to face the French when the squad went into action yesterday. The England team who played South Africa in November faced the other 15 players in a two-hour work-out. Ian Hunter impressed in the oxygen intake endurance examination. England's analysts could recall only one higher score - achieved by Michael Jones, the New Zealand flanker.