COACH Mike Catt insists England’s World Cup squad are blocking out a deluge of criticism as they attempt to regroup for Saturday’s must-win match against Australia.
Sir Clive Woodward, who led the team to glory in 2003, former captain Will Carling and World Cup-winning ex-New Zealand coach Graham Henry have all taken aim at the hosts following last week’s defeat to Wales. That loss means England will become the first hosts to fail to reach the knock-out stage if they do not beat Australia, and skills coach Catt says the camp is ignoring any other discussion.
“The criticism is external white noise which is irrelevant,” he said. “We are massively excited that we have got Australia at Twickenham and that everything is on this one game for us. If you get concerned about the external effects you are not in a good place. Our job is to beat Australia.”
England hope to have centre Jonathan Joseph available again after he returned to training yesterday following the pectoral injury that kept him out of the 28-25 loss to Wales.
Regular No8 Ben Morgan is also back in contention, having missed the first two Pool A contests with a knee problem, but scrum-half Ben Youngs and lock Courtney Lawes remain doubtful for the weekend.
Youngs hurt his ankle and Lawes his knee against Wales, leaving them in a race to prove their fitness before head coach names his team tomorrow, while veteran back-row forward Nick Easter has been summoned to replace Billy Vunipola, who has been ruled out of the tournament.
Catt admitted the tournament’s early injury toll was “concerning” but emphasised that England intended to take the fight to Australia and revive their chances in the so-called Group of Death.
“There is no rush to finalise the team but everybody is progressing nicely,” he said. “Whoever we pick we have total belief that we can score tries. We are doing everything to make sure we get it right. We are very confident with the players making the right decisions at the same time.”
Australia have lost on their last two visits to Twickenham but looked in ominous form against Uruguay on Sunday, running in 11 tries in response to missing a bonus point in their opening defeat of Fiji.
“We have to make sure they don’t get the ball as much they usually do,” Catt added. “Australia have come on leaps and bounds in their set piece. They are a dangerous side. But there is a massive belief that we will go out and play.”