England rugby team confident of successful tour

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The Independent Online

Forwards coach John Wells insists England are in the right frame of mind to launch their Rugby World Cup build-up with a successful tour of Australia and New Zealand.

England open their five-match trip against the Australian Barbarians in Perth on Tuesday night before tackling the first of two Tests against the Wallabies.



Australia's 1999 World Cup-winning coach Rod Macqueen has backed England to triumph over a Wallaby side shorn of key players Will Genia, Stirling Mortlock and Wycliff Palu through injury.



Wells knows England will have to improve on their RBS 6 Nations performances if they are to stand a chance - but he would not argue with Macqueen's verdict.



"This is a good bunch of guys who want to come out here and beat Australia," said Wells.



"They are not just happy to be on the plane and if we can keep pushing that attitude all the way through the tour we can give the Aussies a good game.



"Some of the performances England had in the Six Nations were very questionable. There were also some really good performances and parts within games that were very good.



"Ultimately, we weren't quite good enough. We were better than France on the day but they still had the wherewithal to win that game.



"That is the margin that exists at this level.



"Our first priority is to get good performances. If we do that we will be there or thereabouts in terms of the result. It is that close."



England have brought a 44-man squad on tour in the hope of cementing more names into their selection for the World Cup, which takes place in New Zealand next autumn.



"This tour is the first step to the World Cup build-up. We have got a feeling about the first 20-22 players who will go to the tournament," said Wells.



"In 2007 we were still finding out in the build-up to the World Cup but we are well on the way now to making those decisions.



"By the time this tour is finished we hopefully will be in a position to make decisions about which players we think will make it and which will be struggling.



"The World Cup will be brutal but the build-up will be like a club where you have the opportunity to develop players and so the more players we know who will be involved in the World Cup the better."



Wells sees Australia, who warm up for the two-Test series with a game against Fiji this weekend, as being at a similar stage in their development under Robbie Deans as England are.



"Like England, he has got a hardcore of guys who will be taking to the World Cup," said Wells.



"He has also got a number of positions with a question mark about it. He has some young props kicking around the system, which is no different to where we are.



"He, like us, has to sort out a pecking order."



England have toured without some potential World Cup stars in Tom Rees, Phil Vickery and Dylan Hartley while the Wallabies are without their veteran open-side flankers George Smith and Phil Waugh.



Smith has retired from Test rugby and yesterday signed to join Jonny Wilkinson at Toulon while Waugh was deemed surplus to requirements following the arrival of David Pocock on the Test scene.



"Pocock is an outstanding young man who has come through their system and anyone that takes George Smith's place deserves respect," added Wells.



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