RUGBY WORLD CUP COLUMN: Andy Gomarsall previews England v Wales
The story of the World Cup so far did not take place at Twickenham last Friday, but at the Brighton Community Stadium on Saturday evening, when Japan sent shockwaves around the world to pull off an upset win over South Africa.
It was just amazing to see their courage and conviction against a former World Cup winning side which included so many World Cup heroes in it, and for them to go for the win and get it was one of those beautiful stories in sport.
England and all the other teams will take inspiration from the Japan team, who will have had a lot of eyes on them in their second game against Scotland yesterday afternoon.
There were some critical reviews of England’s performance in the opening game of the World Cup last week against Fiji, but I think you have to give credit to Fiji rather than be critical of England.
The Fijians acquitted themselves superbly, and it wasn’t until the substitutes came on that England created the chances, which from a squad perspective is good for Stuart Lancaster to have.
Richard Wigglesworth, Owen Farrell, the Vunipola brothers and Joe Launchbury all came on, and it helped England create opportunities for the attacking players out wide.
I know as a scrum half myself that the speed of the breakdown was too slow against Fiji, and England will be working on clean outs in training so they can be more effective against Wales.
It was a real tester for England in the opening game, but I expect Wales to provide a more physical and tougher test for us at Twickenham on Saturday night.
England will need to tidy up their precision so they’re not wasting any opportunities that come their way.
Keeping hold of the ball and maintaining possession will be important, because they can squeeze Wales and force them to make mistakes and give away penalties.
I think Farrell has been selected for that reason. He can convert when under pressure so England can keep adding three points to the score and try to build up a lead.
Sam Burgess is also set to start on Saturday, and it’s a massive call, but with the selection, sometimes it is built on momentum and performance. Unlike the journalists and the fans who will no doubt put him under the most scrutiny, the England management see him day in, day out.
Having had the experience of being in these camps I know Sam will be given a huge amount of trust to do the job, and I’m sure he will be up for the challenge on Saturday.
Two years ago England lost the Six Nations against Wales in a Grand Slam decider, and they were ambushed by the Welsh support at the Millennium Stadium that day.
As the host nation, England can do that and spur them onto victory again this weekend.
n Andy, a director in his father’s Bury St Edmunds business N2s, was speaking to Alex Moss and will be commentating for ITV’s world feed during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.