No excuses for England, says Connolly - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

No excuses for England, says Connolly

By Jim Morton 01/10/2007 07:32:32 PM Comments (0)

Wallabies coach John Connolly believes England and other European heavyweights have no excuses for their poor Rugby World Cup form after a "perfect preparation".

Connolly felt the likes of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa - the top three favourites for the title - were far more disadvantaged by the scheduling of the tournament.

Whereas the SANZAR nations started their 2007 campaigns with the Super 14 in January, the European sides have rested in June and July and then geared up again with lead-in Tests.

But the gap in quality between the Tri-Nations and Six Nations has been highlighted by the results in the primary pool stages.

The Wallabies, All Blacks and Springboks all topped their pool and are now expected to qualify through to the October 13-14 semi-finals along with surprise-packet Argentina.

For the first time only three northern hemisphere nations have made the quarter-finals prompting some protests.

France and England, who meet New Zealand and Australia respectively in quarter-finals, now have one-off chances to atone.

Connolly is on guard for an English surprise in Saturday's sudden-death clash at Marseille's Stade Velodrome.

"I think the World Cup favours northern hemisphere sides," he said before leaving Bordeaux for Marseille.

"They have had a perfect preparation.

"They can finish their preparation in May and they can have a bit of a break and they can start rebuilding and get three or four Tests under their belt coming into the World Cup which they have all had.

"For the southern hemisphere sides, (the season) started in January and we have tried to manage the players since then and the danger is you can run out of petrol."

The All Blacks did safeguard themselves from burn out by taking a controversial route in World Cup preparations by resting their top 22 players from the first half of the Super 14.

South Africa also wrapped their players in cotton-wool after hosting the first two Tests of the Tri-Nations in June and resting them before playing pre-World Cup friendlies in August.

But Australia's top players have ploughed their way through the year with a short break after the Tri-Nations conclusion on July 21 before resuming training at the start of August.

"But we did not play any rugby for (seven weeks) coming into the tournament and hopefully we have improved," Connolly said.

"Hopefully you keep building with the more games you have."

Critics have still suggested the Wallabies could be underdone due to a lack of tough pool matches while England have come through four bruising games in a row, including must-win matches against Samoa and Tonga.

England forwards coach John Wells, though, rated the Wallabies a far tougher challenge up front than two years ago when their scrum was demolished at Twickenham.

"There is no doubt their scrummage has taken a good turn," Wells said.

"Before the tournament, people pinpointed it as a potential weakness - but their scrummage and driving play has come on immensely."

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