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Monthly Archives: November 2008

RugbyU: England ponder if power alone can tame Wallabies

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by Julian Guyer*

Conventional wisdom, in the northern hemisphere at least, has it that should England's front-row perform their usual demolition job on the Australian scrum then a win at Twickenham today is assured.
When the Wallabies were last in London, in 2005, England's Andrew Sheridan inflicted a huge beating upon Al Baxter, his front-row opponent again this weekend, and the Australian was sent to the sin-bin for collapsing the scrum.
Sheridan wrecked Australia's scrum again during England's 12-10 World Cup quarter-final win in Marseille last year.
Clearly if England achieve such set-piece dominance again they will be well on the way to victory.
And the fact manager Martin Johnson, who captained England to a World Cup final win over Australia in Sydney five years ago, has recalled grizzled prop Phil Vickery and selected lock Tom Palmer indicates the regard he has for the set-piece.
But, in the Tri-Nations, the Australia pack more than held its own during wins over New Zealand and world champions South Africa.
England, in their first outing under Johnson, beat the Pacific Islanders 39-13 at Twickenham last week in a match where they struggled at the scrum.
By contrast a back three featuring two debutants in full-back Delon Armitage and Ugo Monye, together with Paul Sackey, took every chance to run the ball and did so to good effect.
A feature of the build-up to Anglo-Australian encounters of recent times have been the criticism from legendary Wallaby wing David Campese of England's 'boring' game.
That Campeses has, so far, restricted his fire to accusing Springboks wing Bryan Habana of "resting on his laurels," is a compliment of sorts to the England back division.
The youthful half-back combination of Danny Care and Danny Cipriani, also showed plenty of promise.
Cipriani, who saw a delayed clearance-kick punished by a charge-down try, only gave himself "six out of 10" for his performance last weekend, which suggests he doesn't need anyone to tell him to tighten up his game against the Wallabies, particularly in defensive situations.
Australia, under their Kiwi coach Robbie Deans, have reverted to the side beaten 19-14 by New Zealand in Hong Kong this month save for Hugh McMeniman replacing Dean Mumm at blindside flanker.
Hardened from their Tri-Nations campaign, it is a team sprinkled with seasoned performers and one which will fancy its chances of improving an Australian run of four defeats in their last five Twickenham appearances.
And it is their form, rather than their record at 'headquarters' which has caught the eye of England captain Steve Borthwick.
"I think it is quite clear Australia have improved immeasurably," Borthwick, still to convince some observers about his Test credentials, said. "Their pack is strong and they have shown that by winning away in South Africa and beating New Zealand."
Deans meanwhile was expecting a well-rounded if tough contest. "You've got two sides who like to play with the shackles off. It won't be a frivolous game but it should be a game that will have everything."
Victory for England this weekend will set them up nicely for the visits to Twickenham later this month of the Springboks and the All Blacks.
Were England to beat all three southern hemisphere giants, they would assure themselves of a top four seeding for next month's 2011 World Cup draw and stay away from hosts New Zealand in the pool phase.
Johnson, for whom the phrase "hardened pro" might have been invented, was not concerned.
"We haven't talked about the rankings this week and we won't talk about them," he said. "A world ranking is not what motivates players ahead of a Test match against a side as good as Australia."


Golf: Resurgent Els storms in joint lead at Singapore Open

by Martin Parry*

A resurgent Ernie Els stormed into contention with a hard-fought 70 for a share of the lead alongside England's Simon Dyson on another weather-disrupted day at the Singapore Open yesterday.
It was a long slog for the big South African who had to come out at daybreak to finish four holes from his first round, after being forced off the fairways by bad light on Thursday.
He wasted no time in sinking two birdies to take the outright first round lead before teeing off again almost immediately for round two, where he mixed three birdies and two bogeys to be on six-under-par 136 going into the weekend.
Els shares the lead with Dyson, who stroked a majestic four-under-par 67.
Both players completed their rounds shortly before play was halted at 2.38pm with lightning flashing. Torrential rain followed with the players returning for barely an hour at the end of the day.
Seventy-eight players have yet to finish their rounds.
Chasing hot on the heels of Els and Dyson two adrift after 18 holes were Northern Ireland's teenage sensation Rory McIlroy, the youngest player to secure at European Tour card, and Thailand's Chapchai Nirat.
Overnight leader Lam Chih Bing of Singapore was also on four-under for the tournament but only managed to complete five holes.
Ireland's three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington was even par for his round after six holes to lag seven behind while world number three Phil Mickelson was two over for the tournament after seven holes.
Two-time champion Adam Scott, who beat Els in a play-off here in 2006, floundered 11 behind the leaders after six holes.
"I started early this morning and had two birdies coming in and I played pretty decent in the afternoon but couldn't quite get scoring," said Els.
"But overall I'm pretty satisfied. I hit ball nice, could have made a few more putts but it's fine and I feel quite comfortable."
Els switched his base from Wentworth in England to West Palm Beach in Florida this year, changed his caddie and personal trainer and replaced David Leadbetter with Butch Harmon as his coach.
Until last weekend the upheaval had yet to pay dividends with seven missed cuts but he won the King Hassan II Trophy in Morocco on Sunday and has brought his form to Singapore.
"It would be great to win but I'm still working on my game," he said.
"My year has not been great but I'm still trying to get better and get my game back. I feel comfortable, had a win last week which helps the confidence, and I just want to keep grinding away and see what happens Sunday."
European Tour star Dyson put together a decent bogey-free round and said he was playing some of his best golf ever.
"I was very solid. I hit a lot of fairways, a lot of greens and holed some good putts," he said.
"Whenever you play a round and don't hit a bogey it is very satisfying. I feel like I'm playing some of the best golf I've ever played but the course is so tough."
Chapchai, who has struggled to make his mark in Europe this year with the cold weather not to his liking, is the highest placed Asian Tour regular and said he was feeling good.
"I hit my driver and three woods really well today," he said.
"I'm feeling good about myself. I played quite a bit in Europe this year but I struggled in the cold and wind. However, I took that as a learning experience and will certainly head there again next season."