England must fix defensive flaws

Jason Leonard believes a solid defensive showing in England’s four year-end Test matches will boost confidence ahead of the World Cup.

The former England prop, a member of the 2003 winning team, said he hoped the current crop of players would improve on their Six Nations showing, where they conceded 106 points and finished fourth in the standings as well as their mid-year tour to Australia, where they conceded 77 points in two Tests.

“Hopefully we’ll see improvement in every game,” he told the BBC. “Then we’ll know where we are and we can use that as a platform with the World Cup in mind.”

England play the All Blacks, South Africa (twice) and Argentina and while Leonard conceded that it would be unrealistic to expect them to win all four matches, he did say that resting key players for the tour of Australia would have benefited them significantly.

“We have got our players back now because in the summer, a lot of players were rested because of the Lions in 2005, so these are quite exciting times,” he said.

England’s defensive task could become even more arduous if the goals of All Black captain Richie McCaw are realised. He today called for his side to be far more clinical when presented with scoring opportunities.

“We have had a heck of a lot of opportunities this year which were not capitalised on, and we’re not that happy about that,” he told New Zealand’s Sunday Star-Times.

“It’s been a bit of a trend we want to change.”