Ongoing criticism of England’s beleaguered World Cup squad is no more than “external white noise” according to the team’s attacking coach Mike Catt.
“The criticism is pretty much external white noise that is irrelevant to this weekend,” he said of Saturday’s must-win fixture against Australia at Twickenham. “Our focus is beating Australia. Like last week, it is a must-win game. We are massively excited by the fact that we have got Australia at Twickenham. It’s going to be an exciting match and everything is on this one game for us.”
The former England captain Will Carling posted a scathing critique of England’s decision-making on YouTube, having pointed his phone at himself in his own back garden.
“If you get concerned about the external effects, you are not in a good place and you lose focus of what your job is. Our job is to beat Australia, not to worry about criticism from ex-players,” said Catt.
Australia, who are a transformed team to that which lost to England at Twickenham last autumn, go in to the match as favourites.
“They have come on massively with their set-pieces and scrums. They are exceptionally talented – very, very good when you give them time and space and when you let them have the ball and their pack of forwards is very dangerous,” said Catt.
“It’s about trying to nullify those aspects but it’s also the way you play and making sure they don’t get the ball as much as they normally do for them to create what they can create. But let’s not take away what we have achieved over the Six Nations, and how capable we are of scoring tries as well.”
Courtney Lawes, Ben Youngs and Jonathan Joseph are all still fighting to be declared fit when the team is named tomorrow. The No 8 Billy Vunipola is already ruled out, but Ben Morgan – who missed the match against Wales – is likely to be fit enough to replace him. Vunipola, who has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament, has been replaced in the squad by 37-year-old Nick Easter.
“I’m massively disappointed for Billy Vunipola,” Catt said. “He has put in three months of hard graft and to end it like this is not nice but he has got two or three World Cups left in him.
“Nick has got the experience, he has been there before and he is a specialist No 8. He gives us exactly what we want from a No 8 so it’s pretty much a straight swap. He is bouncing from pre-season with Harlequins and he will give us that added lift some of the boys might need.”
Hooker Rob Webber said that the result against Wales just meant England would have to do it the “hard way”. “We’ve got a very tough game against Australia coming up and we need to win it. We’re going to have to do it the hard way, you know.”