2003 World Cup winning spirit was built on squad socialising

ENGLAND players made the headlines this week but not for the reasons they would have wanted, after pictures surfaced of them in a bar celebrating last weekend’s win over Argentina.

Much has been made of the incident, which took place on a designated day off that followed the opening match, and questions have been raised about the suitability of the players’ conduct.

Now, I am not condoning people going out and going crazy, but I think on this occasion matters have been blown out of proportion. For all we know, some of the players who happen to have been pictured might not have been drinking.

Players are smart enough to know not to drink so much after a game that it will affect them by the time the next fixture comes around.

If they were out drinking the following night, and the following night then there might be just cause for concern – but that has not been the case and I do not think this is worth the fuss.

When we were at the World Cup in Australia in 2003 we players went out and socialised in between matches. Because there were no cameras there, no-one made a big deal out of it.

However, it was absolutely vital in maintaining a strong bond within the squad, and that was ultimately a major factor in helping us come back to England with the Webb Ellis Trophy in our hands.

There has also been some debate about the wisdom of Martin Johnson allowing his players to take part in extreme sports such as bungee jumping and white-water rafting in between games.

Again, I cannot see the problem. It would be mad to go to New Zealand and not try these things – and I’m sure the places they went to were ones with excellent safety records. It is important for the squad to relax and get away from the pressure of a six-week tournament. Squad activities are a key part of this – and anyone who thinks that is a problem needs their head examined.

World Cup winner Kyran Bracken (@kyranbracken) was speaking courtesy of GamePlan Solutions: managing high profile and popular sport stars; speakers, leaders, motivators and ambassadors www.gameplansolutions.co.uk

Cut loose against Georgia, Johnson
MARTIN JOHNSON is absolutely right to make big changes for England second World Cup match, against Georgia on Sunday.

A few players – like Lewis Moody, Ben Youngs and Simon Shaw – need to get their feet wet, to get some game time under their belts.

Others – like Matt Stevens and Toby Flood – are pushing to show they are worth a starting place.

The pool stage is about getting the balance right in the team, so it’s essential to tinker a bit, and Martin will be looking to see who is sharp.

I just hope Johnson has taken something away tactically from the narrow win over Argentina.

You should never adopt a strategy that plays to your opponent’s strengths. Instead we should have sped up the game and taken them on more – and I really hope we do that against Georgia.

One player who can do that is Youngs, who I have worked with extensively. He really adds something, can break the line, force play out wide and change the game.

Minnows making the biggest splash
WHILE none of the big four or five teams may have played well enough yet to feel comfortable, other teams have excelled themselves.

Japan, USA and most of the so-called smaller sides have impressed me, Scotland had to work against Romania and there have been none of the cricket scores I expected.