England must refocus after Care setback, warns Cohen

WORLD CUP winner Ben Cohen has warned England they cannot afford to dwell on setbacks in the run up to next month’s tournament, after scrum-half Danny Care was ruled out with a toe injury.

Care, who was tipped by some to be first-choice No9 in New Zealand, faces a six-week lay-off after surgery today on a joint in his left big toe that he damaged on Saturday.

The Harlequins star’s absence is another blow to England manager Martin Johnson, who was already fuming over the weekend defeat to Wales, in which his side dominated but sorely lacked a cutting edge.

But former winger Cohen, who played alongside Johnson in 2003 before retiring this year, believes England are still in good shape to reach the World Cup last four and must quickly regain their focus.

“It is a loss but one they can’t get hung up on,” he told City A.M. “It’s disappointing but you’ve got to make that step forward. As a player on the team, you’ve got to wipe your mouth and carry on.

“Let’s not get carried away. These are only warm-up games. They’ve had two games to really finalise and nail their team before they go against Ireland and then out to New Zealand. You can’t read too much into your warm-up games – the last one you can, but not the other ones.” Care admitted yesterday he was “absolutely devastated” while Johnson, who trims his squad from 39 to a final 30 on Monday, called the news “really disappointing”.

It means Ben Youngs, who is himself recovering from injury, is almost certain to start at scrum-half, with Richard Wigglesworth likely to edge out Joe Simpson as back-up.

Cohen believes England will miss Care’s dynamism – a quality in short supply at the Millennium Stadium – and has urged Johnson to pick veteran Jonny Wilkinson ahead of Toby Flood at fly-half.

“Care injected pace into the game, we noticed that at the weekend when he came on. He taps and goes, suddenly making the break and getting in behind defences, and that’s what you want from a good No9, like Matt Dawson used to,” he added.

“I’d go Wilkinson and then Flood – he gives them an extra edge in attack. There’s nothing wrong individually with these players but they’re not gelling in midfield, which is a concern. You see it in their attack, where they’re not ambitious enough. I’d like a more expansive game with Wilkinson at No10 and Flood at No12, and a power runner at No13. It’s a headache for Martin Johnson.”

The RFU, together with O2, is encouraging the country to show its support for England this summer and “Choose Rugby”. Visit www.rfu.com/ChooseRugby and get involved by playing, coaching or volunteering at your local club.