England defence guru Phil Larder believes it will be tough for any team to emulate Australia’s remarkable 1999 achievement in winning the World Cup by conceding only one try.
The Wallabies’ supreme defensive unit underpinned their success four years ago, especially during the knockout stages when Wales, South Africa and finally France all failed to penetrate a brilliantly-organised unit.
England are among the world’s finest defensive teams, and pride themselves on shutting out opposing sides, but Larder concedes that Australia are a hard act to follow.
“We want to get as many tries as possible, and every game we go into we try not to concede any,” said Larder, ahead of Sunday’s Pool C opener against Georgia at Subiaco Oval.
“But it is going to be very difficult to go through the tournament and concede just one try, as Australia did in 1999.
“I feel that the game has become a little bit more expansive since the last World Cup, and there are a lot of teams who offer a lot and ask a lot of questions.
“As far as we are concerned, it is important that we don’t look at the World Cup as a whole, and we just take every match as it comes,” he added.
“But we go into every game trying very hard not to concede any points, and certainly not to concede a try.”
The Georgians, who will make their World Cup debut this weekend, are renowned for a physical approach.
Georgia’s final World Cup warm-up game against Italy in Asti last month was scarred by some ugly flare-ups, yet England don’t anticipate being dragged into an unsavoury scrap.
“The one thing we know, looking at the size of the Georgian players, is that they are certainly built for scrummaging,” said England coach Andy Robinson.
“Watching their games against Italy and Russia, they certainly put a lot of stall on their scrummaging. They are hard, physical players and we are expecting a physical contest up-front.
“I don’t think it will turn into a fight in any shape. It is just going to be good, hard, physical rugby.”
England continued their preparations today, having been boosted by a message of support from soccer superstar David Beckham.
Fly-half Wilkinson and England football captain Beckham recently worked together on a television advert for sportswear giant adidas.
Their mutual respect is clear, and Wilkinson revealed that the Real Madrid midfielder had been in touch as England’s World Cup mission prepares for lift-off.
“He has been very supportive and passed on his best, which has been fantastic,” said Wilkinson, who will line up in a full-strength England side for the Georgia clash.
“It was great working with him doing the adidas advert and he’s obviously a huge international figure.
“He’s captain of his country and he knows what World Cups are about. It is a nice gesture, and I wish him the best also.
“He just got in contact and passed on his best through adidas and through a quick phone message. He said ’good luck’.”