We have to win collisions, says Dallaglio

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The Independent Online

Ben Cohen missed England's training session yesterday because of a problem with his buttock, a development that dovetailed perfectly with the general mood of this pain-in-the-backside tour of All Black country. The Northampton wing was not alone - Matthew Dawson, relegated to the bench for this weekend's second Test at Eden Park, and Chris Jones, dropped altogether, spent the morning nursing groin and hip injuries - and there might have been more absentees had the team doctor recognised "battered ego" as a bona fide medical condition.

Ben Cohen missed England's training session yesterday because of a problem with his buttock, a development that dovetailed perfectly with the general mood of this pain-in-the-backside tour of All Black country. The Northampton wing was not alone - Matthew Dawson, relegated to the bench for this weekend's second Test at Eden Park, and Chris Jones, dropped altogether, spent the morning nursing groin and hip injuries - and there might have been more absentees had the team doctor recognised "battered ego" as a bona fide medical condition.

On the off chance that any England player actually felt good about himself following the 36-3 drubbing in Dunedin last weekend - a long shot, admittedly, but some people get funny ideas about professional sport after almost two years of non-stop rugby - the captain offered a few thoughts designed to disabuse them of the notion. Lawrence Dallaglio, as proud as the day is long and hurting badly, did not so much appeal for a more pugnacious approach as demand it.

"Most of the work to be done for this game is in people's heads," said the No 8, whose record since regaining the captaincy he lost in the spring of 1999 - three defeats in six internationals, with two hugely challenging fixtures on the immediate horizon - is far shabbier than he would have wished. "I think the most important thing is for the players to concentrate their thoughts on how passionate they feel about pulling on the white jersey."

Dallaglio pulled precious few punches in identifying areas of concern - one of which, appropriately enough, was the lack of punches thrown by his colleagues in response to the roughing-up dished out by the New Zealanders. "The phrase 'out-muscled' is not one I like to hear about a forward pack in which I am involved, but it is an accurate description of what happened to us in Dunedin," he admitted. "Our primary improvement must be in our level of physicality. We have to win the collisions."

As Steve Borthwick, the Bath lock promoted to the starting formation following a handy second-half showing on Saturday, could be heard making a similar point on Tuesday, there is good reason to expect a rough-house of a Test in front of a capacity 45,000 audience. Pressed on England's unusually limp forward display in the opening contest, Borthwick said darkly: "We recognise that improvements must be made in certain areas." He was not talking about the standard of after-match speeches.

One glimmer of light illuminated the England camp yesterday when their opponents admitted to a growing concern over Richie McCaw, their brilliant open-side flanker. McCaw has been suffering from acute headaches and may well be concussed. If that diagnosis is confirmed, Marty Holah of Waikato will fill the vacancy.

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