Andy Robinson: Inside The World Cup

Who'll make the difference: a coach's take on those doing battle in Marseilles
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The Independent Online

England

15 Jason Robinson There has been a lot of discussion about his optimum position. I believe the full-back role suits him best. He's an awesome player, a unique talent. The Wallabies will have to mark him in twos.

14 Paul Sackey He has the pace to beat a man on the outside, and I hope he does to Lote Tuqiri today what Tom Varndell did to him in Sydney last year. If he runs into tight alleyways, he'll be nailed.

13 Mathew Tait At his best in broken-field situations, Mathew will be a handful if England get to fourth or fifth phase. I want to see him hitting the wide short sides, where he'll be running at forwards. Can he defend? Yes, as long as he doesn't slide off his man too early.

12 Mike Catt It's vital that he's ready for a game of this magnitude, having had a couple of weeks of non-involvement. A good communicator, like Andy Farrell, his kicking game will give England options. He needs to be switched on.

11 Josh Lewsey Josh thrives on being involved. He has considerable defensive qualities and he chases well. He must get off his wing and get those legs pumping in contact.

10 Jonny Wilkinson He has great gift of concentration. Even when things are going wrong, he focuses on the next task and makes sure he performs it. A ruthless accumulator, he is worth 20 points a game. That gives England a crucial psychological advantage.

9 Andy Gomarsall Andy has done well in this competition. The first job of a scrum-half is to clear the ball, and speed of possession will be a key factor for England. He knows his way around a rugby field.

1 Andrew Sheridan Awesome. Andrew has really grown in recent weeks, contributing strongly in the loose and lifting well at the line-out as well as scrummaging heavily. If the Wallabies approach the set-piece legally, they'll find him terribly difficult to handle.

2 Mark Regan He has to focus on his game – his scrummaging, his throwing, all the disciplines of the hooking role. A positive contribution is essential. If he takes his eye off the ball, so to speak, he'll play into Wallaby hands.

3 Phil Vickery On form, his would be the first name on my team sheet. There hasn't been much to choose between him and Matt Stevens, which is a major compliment to Stevens. In a life-or-death game, Vickery has what it takes.

4 Simon Shaw A phenomenal scrummager and a driving forward of the highest quality, he can also deliver at the line-out if the speed of throw is right. I'd like to see more of the off-loading game he plays at Wasps.

5 Ben Kay Not quite the player he was when we won the World Cup in 2003, but he's slowly getting there. He'll have done his homework on the Wallaby line-out, but the Australian coaches would have feared Steve Borthwick more and will take the view that England have missed a trick.

6 Martin Corry England's most consistent player. He always delivers at 95 per cent plus, which is as much as anyone can reasonably ask. A lot of coaches have looked for ways of not picking him, including the current England selectors, but he always demands inclusion.

7 Lewis Moody As I said on the morning of the Tonga game, he has the biggest heart in the side. He brings a competitive edge, as well as courage, and has raw speed to go with it. Outside-halves always worry about him. Berrick Barnes, watch out.

8 Nick Easter The most improved player in the team. He'll need a dominant tight five and a back division on the front foot to prosper here, but if the platform is right he could cause problems. Without the ball, he might struggle to stay involved.

Australia

15 Chris Latham He has everything, apart from out and out pace, and does everything: he offers a great kicking game, he's a wonderful footballer, he's a counter-attacking diamond who loves scoring tries. His work rate is out of the top drawer and he poses a major threat to England.

14 Adam Ashley-Cooper One of the less familiar Wallabies, he will be targeted by England today. I think the champions would have been more concerned had Drew Mitchell, one of the more free-scoring wings in this tournament, been given the nod.

13 Stirling Mortlock He has developed some superior leadership skills and I've been impressed by his rugby in this competition. The one thing England mustn't do is drift off him too early and leave themselves exposed. He's quicker than many people think and he distributes well.

12 Matt Giteau A versatile player whose flexibility could ultimately count against him. Very strong going forward, but a potential weakness if England put him on the back foot.

11 Lote Tuqiri A warrior who will bring all the emotion of the 2003 World Cup final defeat into this game. He's that kind of character. Having pumped himself up, he'll test Sackey.

10 Berrick Barnes The new outside-half hasn't been tested yet, so the Wallabies themselves will have doubts about his ability to handle pressure of this magnitude. Everything will depend on how much time he spends on the front foot.

9 George Gregan Barnes is lucky to have the world's most-capped player alongside him. Gregan is a remarkable individual, a skilful player who understands his own game in minute detail.

1 Matt Dunning He has improved his scrummaging, and has a much better body shape than he did, but I still expect him to glimpse parts of his own body that are usually hidden to him. We'll see today if he has balls.

2 Stephen Moore The new hooker strikes me as a player in the mould of the forwards coach, Michael Foley, who was a fierce and cussed competitor. He'll bind the Wallabies together.

3 Guy Shepherdson Another man who will be tested to the limit by the England pack. Scrummaging against Sheridan is not something I'd recommend to an inexperienced prop like Shepherdson. It could be carnage.

4 Nathan Sharpe A quality lock, very much like Simon Shaw but with added dynamism. He's a bright player, one capable of carrying a lot of ball as well as performing securely at the line-out.

5 Daniel Vickerman A big man with excellent aerial skills, and he complements Sharpe well. Together, they form a potent partnership. It will be their job to keep the Australian pack afloat when the going gets tough.

6 Rocky Elsom He's had an excellent tournament, but can he play going backwards? Like many blind-side flankers, Elsom is a bullying kind of player who relishes life on the front foot. This game will tell us if he has the heart for Test rugby at its hardest.

7 George Smith Fabulous. I respect Smith because despite being a world-class turnover specialist, he made it his business to improve his weaknesses as a defender. He used to tackle too high. Now, he's as good in this department as he is on the floor.

8 Wycliff Palu The Wallaby coaches have been intent on fast-tracking Palu into the back row as a new Toutai Kefu. At one time, I wondered about his fitness. Having watched him in this tournament, I think he's in good shape. He's strong, that's for sure.

Tactical game of chess could prove decisive in the struggle to overcome Wallabies

There are fascinating battles here, between the coaching teams as well as in the individual match-ups on the field. We have the contest at the set-piece, where England's John Wells and Michael Foley of Australia will have planned and plotted to gain an edge. We see Brian Ashton charged with the task of developing a strategy that will unpick the renowned defensive system of the experienced Wallaby coach John Muggleton. By the same yardstick, England's defence specialist, Mike Ford, must neutralise the wit and inventiveness of Scott Johnson, the Australian attack coach.

England could win all three contests, yet win the game by only a point. That's the Wallabies for you. They have a tremendous collective will. Only at the final whistle will they accept that they've been beaten. It is this that England must overcome, and the key factor will be field position. If Wells' pack can dominate the tight exchanges and play on the front foot, Jonny Wilkinson will find a way of scoring points. It sounds simple, but delivery will be difficult. It always is against Australia.

New Zealand will be tested by France in Cardiff this evening, although I expect them to come through. The French have grown as a team since losing that dramatic opening match with Argentina, and they have travelled with belief. New Zealand have not had to play so far in the tournament – not seriously, at any rate. The physicality of this match will concern them, because it will be way above what they have encountered thus far. The All Blacks should make it home in the final quarter.

Argentina? I admire how they've played. To my mind, their performances have been the pick of the tournament to date. I can see Scotland asking some questions, not least because in their different ways, the outside-half Dan Parks and wing Chris Paterson have constructed an all-round kicking game as good as any in this World Cup. The Scots will be productive at the line-out, too, and if Paterson puts points on the board – and he has yet to miss a shot at the posts – it could be interesting. The Pumas are strong and driven, but the Scots will test their teamship and temperament. Argentina must be at their best in these areas if Agustin Pichot is to lead them to victory.

The last quarter-final will go the way of South Africa. Fiji's biggest match was last week, against Wales – a team who played the loose game the islanders can handle. The Springboks will be tighter and I suspect they will smash the Fijian pack early, although the crowd may still be treated to magic from the likes of Seru Rabeni and Vilimoni Delasau.

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