England players fight for Cup survival - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

England players fight for Cup survival

By Justin Chadwick 04/06/2010 02:10:43 PM Comments (0)

England's players will be fighting to keep their World Cup dream alive during their five-match tour of Australasia, which kicks off against the Barbarians in Perth next Tuesday.

Forty-four players have made the trip to Australia but England coach Martin Johnson must whittle his squad down to 32 by July 1 as the build-up to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand builds momentum.

England will play two Tests against the Wallabies, two matches against the Barbarians and one game against New Zealand Maori this month and Johnson said he would use the outings to find the right mix for his squad.

"It's the last time we'll be on tour before the World Cup in 2011 so in terms of a build-up it probably starts now in terms of World Cup preparation," Johnson said.

"It gives some players a genuine opportunity to advance themselves.

"We've got 44 and it has to go down to 32 and there's probably four or five other guys who aren't here through injury.

"So we are looking at 50 players in competition for that 32."

Johnson said the tour would also give his players vital experience on how to cope with external factors away from home.

"If you go to a World Cup you are away from home for hopefully six, seven weeks if you get to the end of it," he said.

"It's a different mindset than being at home ... so it's a chance for guys to experience what it's like on the road.

"You haven't got everything controlled."

Star England five-eighth Jonny Wilkinson, who has overcome a back injury, will play in Australia for the first time since kicking the winning drop goal in the 2003 World Cup final.

But while that triumph was one of the sweetest moments of his career, he was also part of the team that copped a 76-0 thumping in Brisbane in 1998.

"It's a place you have to come with everything you've got in order just to get on the plane and leave in one piece mentally and physically," Wilkinson said.

"That's respect to what the guys do here and how they do it.

"In 2003 it was a better year for us but since then we've had tough years and before that we had tough years.

"So it makes you realise these experiences are enormously productive, especially if you can come away and have some good performances."

England endured a topsy-turvy Six Nations campaign, beating Italy and Wales, drawing with Scotland and losing to Ireland and France.

However, captain Lewis Moody said the gutsy 12-10 away loss to France proved the team's development was on track.

"It's about continuing the momentum from that French game," Moody said.

"We didn't win that game but we took our form forward and it's important we keep doing that."

The Wallabies take on Fiji in Canberra on Saturday before facing off against England in Perth a week later.

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