Normally we have only three days together before playing, which is an intense build-up, but the process was too long drawn-out before we played the Argentinians. It was rugby, rugby, rugby for several days, and it got very tense in the squad. By the end, we were not enjoying training, and, as I think you could see in the game, we did not enjoy playing.
Afterwards we tried to bring some light relief back into the squad. We played more golf, did some boogie-boarding, and went to other functions - in fact we are going to see Mike and the Mechanics tonight.
The result was that we got off to a good start against Italy, and it was nice that we were able to run in a couple of tries. Personally, I had one embarrassing moment when the ball bounced over my head, but overall I was quite pleased. We seem to be working well together as a back three, and it was good to get in a couple of runs as well. My try was started from a long way back, and it is encouraging that we are recognising opportunities like that. It is the approach that we are looking to develop.
Where we went wrong was that when the rain came down heavily we perhaps tried too hard to throw the ball around and tried to force it a bit. When we were 27-13 ahead a pass went behind Mike Catt's head when he was through under the posts, which would have made it 34-13, and then they scored a soft try, to go with their one at the end of the first half, because of our unfortunate lapses in concentration. I don't think, though, that the final score was an accurate reflection of how the game went.
On the day after a match we always have a gentle session in the gym - light weights, running, swimming or cycling to get the after-effects of the game out of the body. Then we went paintballing in the afternoon, which everyone enjoyed - apart from when I took one in the head at point- blank range from Dean Richards - before going to a reception in the evening. Yesterday some of the boys went to look at the shark-nets around the beaches to see if any had been caught up, but they had to get up at 5am, and didn't see any sharks. Some had a helicopter ride with the army, while I went to play golf at Hugh Baiocchi's course near here, where Jon Callard and I lost heavily to Les Cusworth (who went round in five over par) and Jerry Guscott.
So we are relaxed, going forwards, enjoying training again, and looking forward to each game. Confidence is good as we prepare to play Western Samoa, although I will be having a rest.
All three of our group games have been awkward in different ways. The Argentinians had formidable forward power while the Italians were perhaps better organised and had a bit more flair. Now for the Samoans. You could call their rugby wild and unstructured. They love to attack. They fling the ball around and can attack from anywhere, and, of course, they are uncompromising in defence - probably more so than any other side in the tournament. We accept that we are likely to take big hits, and in fact relish the opportunity to show our physical prowess.
We haven't been working on anything technical in particular since the Italian match - a bit more depth in the backs and unity in the forwards. We will be looking to launch attacks against Western Samoa, but we are very aware how much they love loose play and that we must not play into that.
A lot of people have been asking whether we would prefer to play Australia or South Africa in the quarter-final. If we lose tomorrow it will probably be South Africa, which could lead to an easier semi-final.
My attitude to that is that we haven't lost since the second Test out here last year, and we do not want to start now.Reuse content