Rugby Union: Second sight calms Cooke

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THE screen version, for once, was obviously better than the real thing. Having studied the video of England's opening Five Nations game against France, the manager, Geoff Cooke, is toning down his instant reaction of dissatisfaction.

'Our overall display was not as bad as on first sight,' he said. 'We clearly did not deal well in attack or defence with kicks, and little niggling things stopped us developing moves and retaining pressure.

'But France did so much that tested us. There was a a great deal of inconspicious work done by grafting forwards like Brian Moore and Mike Teague that kept us ahead after that 12-point start for France.

'Still, errors were frequent - and that might have been expected in the game between the two most powerful sides in the Five Nations and the first in the Championship played under the new laws. But there is nothing to be too depressed about.'

Which will no doubt come as a relief to the England players expecting a roasting when they next gather at the end of the month. The side for the second round of the championship, at Cardiff on 6 February, will be named on Sunday 31 January.

The French, too, were busy drawing satisfaction. 'We're heading in the right direction,' the captain, Jean-Francois Tordo said. And the chairman of selectors, Guy Laporte, hinted that the same team will play against Scotland on 6 February in Paris, where the Scots have not won since 1969. 'After asking them to die for their country against England we are not going to execute those who were good patriots,' he said.

Meanwhile the four directors of the organising committee of the World Cup, Nic Labuschagne of the South African Rugby Football Union, Russ Thomas of New Zealand, Sir Ewart Bell of Ireland and Marcel Martin of France are in South Africa seeking guarantees that the 1995 competition can go ahead there. In particular, they will ask the African National Congress for their go-ahead.