Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Mark Cueto last night proved that whatever else England lack there is no issue with individual self-confidence.

Forty eight hours after the world's biggest and richest rugby union completed another dismal autumn campaign, Cueto tipped them to win the Six Nations rugby .

"I certainly believe we can win the title," he said. "I'm definitely looking for us to improve on last year when we won all our home games and finished runners-up.

"This autumn hasn't gone the way we wanted. There are areas we need to improve massively on. We've got to be more clinical.

"But a year ago our autumn campaign was terrible and come the Six Nations rugby we only lost by a point to Ireland, who won the Grand Slam, having played a quarter of the game with 14 men."

Right now it is easier to make a case for England finishing last than first. On form they will struggle to beat either Ireland or Wales even with home advantage.

They will also be underdogs in Edinburgh and Paris against Andy Robinson's resurgent Scotland and a French side coming off victory over world champions South Africa.

The questions are piling up over Martin Johnson's England. Where is the progress? Where is the adventure? Are England paying for appointing a head man with no coaching experience?

"If it gets more kids playing rugby then that's great, but certainly it means we can go into the Six Nations rubgy with confidence now."
They have not been helped by rugby's lawmakers killing rugby as a spectacle by giving every advantage to defence over attack at the breakdown.

"It's become ridiculous," said Cueto. "It isn't fun for anyone - not for those watching and not for us playing. It's killing the game.

"I have scored one try this season for England and Sale. It's the worst strike rate I've ever had. I find it so frustrating."

But it is the same for all teams and England must become more inventive.

Of the so-called golden generation, Shane Geraghty is in and out of the side, Danny Cipriani's in the wilderness and Ben Foden is back at his club.

"I'm pretty livid," said Foden. "I saw these (matches) as a massive opportunity for me, with Delon Armitage injured.

"There's been very little feedback from England. I like to take people on and run from my own line. If England don't agree with that style of rugby, then I'm not their man."

I like to take people on and run from my own line and, if England do not agree with that style of rugby, I am not their man." England may not be playing well, but their two home matches in next year's Six Nations hospitalityare already sell-outs and all the hospitality for the first game, against Wales in February, have been taken. Australia and New Zealand are not so fortunate commercially and they will express their concerns about the stagnancy of the game on the field at this weekend's gathering of the International Rugby Board's general assembly in Dublin, followed by a meeting of the council.

England's record in Six Nations rubgy winning the 2003 World Cup..

2004: 3rd behind France and Ireland

2005: 4th behind Wales, France and Ireland

2006: 4th behind France, Ireland and Scotland

2007: 3rd behind France and Ireland

2008: 2nd behind Wales

2009: 2nd behind Ireland

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