All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu has backed England’s chances of winning the World Cup this summer after seeing them “come on leaps and bounds” recently.
While Lomu acknowledges Martin Johnson’s side are clearly not favourites for the tournament in his native New Zealand, he believes any of the traditional big guns can win the trophy.
After a somewhat rocky start Johnson has carved out an exciting team with genuine cutting edge.
That progress was highlighted in the autumn Tests and is clearly in evidence in the current RBS 6 Nations Championship, with England having won all three games so far.
Lomu told Press Association Sport he has been impressed with what he has seen.
He said: “England have come on leaps and bounds and we’ve always known they will be there or thereabouts.
“They’ve got a group of youngsters that have come through and they have shown exactly what they can do. You just have to watch them in the Six Nations to see how much they have come on.
“When you get someone like Jonno at the head of it, spearheading it as the coach, then what do you expect?”
England are rated as generously as 17/2 with some bookmakers to win in New Zealand and Lomu believes that would not be a bad bet.
“You’ve got to fancy them. They are looking fantastic at the moment,” he said. “But them, the French, you’ve got to fancy everybody.”
Much of the focus on England’s recently improved fortunes has been on wing Chris Ashton, as much for his flamboyant style as his try-scoring record.
“Everybody has their own style of play and he’s leading,” Lomu said.
“He’s showing what he has to and he’s doing it well, that’s the thing, and it is coming off for him.
“He’s embracing his opportunities, he’s taken them so far and shown exactly what sort of damage he can do to any team.”
Lomu’s old side are clear favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy, ahead of rivals Australia and defending champions South Africa. However, Lomu, currently in Barcelona for the Global Sports Forum, insists there will be no taking things for granted in the All Black camp.
“There will definitely not be any complacency or over-confidence. That’s one thing the New Zealanders definitely won’t be doing,” he added.
“I’m sure (coach) Graham Henry and the staff will make sure of that.”