Corry looks to rebuild foundations of England's fortress Twickenham

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The Independent Online

On the face of it, this was not an unequivocal declaration of attacking intent, even though Andy Robinson, the England coach, is on record as bemoaning his own tactical conservatism of last season and predicting that his side's defence of the Webb Ellis Trophy in France in two years will not cut much ice without a sharp upturn in pace and imagination as well as efficiency.

But it was not difficult to see Corry's point. Even when they are struggling for confidence, as they are now, the Australians are a pain in the rear end - no out-of-form team in international rugby are more difficult to subdue. What is more, Corry is defending a 100 per cent record at the helm, and while last season's successes against Italy and Scotland were not the kind of results to justify a handsome financial bonus and early retirement, he is looking a damned sight better than his immediate predecessors as captain, Lawrence Dallaglio and Jason Robinson.

"Our defeats last year hurt like hell," he admitted, casting his mind back to a shambolic reverse at the hands of the Wallabies 12 months ago - a defining example of a side shooting themselves in both feet while proving incapable of shooting the ball in the general direction of the opposition posts - followed by successive Six Nations losses to Wales, France and Ireland, all of them unnecessary to a greater or lesser degree. "It was unacceptable in terms of the standards we set ourselves. The great thing is that we have a chance to put things right.

"We were knocked for those performances and rightly so. Is this the start of something for England? I'm not sure. We've been together for 10 days now, an unusually long period of preparation time, and I for one feel in great shape and ready to go.

"But it's all very well me sitting here and suggesting that things have improved on last season. It's down to what happens on match day, isn't it? We have three games coming up. Would I settle for two wins? No, I don't think I would."

Bold words. Next week, Graham Henry's state-of-the-art All Blacks visit Twickenham and if England go into that game off the back of a defeat by a Wallaby side in the middle of their worst trot in the best part of 40 years, they will not stand an earthly.

Understandably, Corry is wary of this weekend's opponents. "When we beat South Africa with a really good performance last year, we matched them in the confrontation and won well. A week later, the Australians posed a completely different challenge because they brought a wide attacking game as well as basic physicality. Combined with their excellent defence, it made them very difficult to break down. We can expect something similar this time."

Meanwhile, the French captain Fabien Pelous has apologised for driving an elbow into the face of the Wallaby hooker, Brendan Cannon, during last weekend's Test in Marseilles - an incident that has landed Pelous before a disciplinary tribunal scheduled to sit in London this evening. The Toulouse lock said he acted without premeditation.

Pelous insisted he meant Cannon no harm, claiming he made contact "instinctively" as the Australian cut across his space. However, he also agreed that he had made a "foolish mistake" and said he would throw himself on the mercy of the panel in the hope they would take into account a clean record of six years' standing.

The French have provisionally named Pelous among their replacements for this weekend's match with Canada.

All Blacks omit Umaga from Dublin examination

The All Blacks have calmed some of the troubled waters surrounding their meeting with Ireland in Dublin this weekend by omitting Tana Umaga, their long-serving captain, from a line-up completely different to that which reduced Wales to dust at the Millennium Stadium. Those Lansdowne Road regulars planning to berate Umaga for his role in the incident that left Brian O'Driscoll with a dislocated shoulder in the first Lions Test, in Christchurch in June, will have to think again. Of the players who started against the Welsh, only Mils Muliaina gets a second run.