Ashton puts on brave face

Brian Ashton still believes England can defend their World Cup title after two successive defeats to France.

The Poms lost 21-15 at Twickenham and were more comprehensively beaten in Marseilles than the 22-9 scoreline suggests.

While England’s pack held their own against the French, their backs offered almost nothing on attack. In fact, the World Cup holders failed to score a try in 160 minutes against the Six Nations champs.

However, Ashton insists his team can turn things around.

“There’s a belief that we actually can surprise some people but there’s an awful lot of work to do,” said the coach. “[The World Cup] is not an impossible challenge at all. We can play better than we did [in Marseilles], we know that. We’ve just got to make sure we do when the moments arise.”

“We didn’t front up when it came to the basics of our game, which is something we had done the last two weeks. I’m disappointed with the lack of composure the players showed at times,” he added.

“Our lack of creativity is also a concern. We can’t just play damage limitation and rely on just one area. We need to add other bits and pieces to our game and get the full platform right if we are to make a defence of the World Cup.”

In some good news for England, captain Phil Vickery has recovered after being stretchered off the field with concussion. “I’ve just had breakfast with him, he’s fine”, Ashton said.

Meanwhile, French coach Bernard Laporte said he was satisfied with his side’s build-up to the World Cup.

“At the outset we had two targets. First to really train hard and then to step up the players to maximum pace,” he said. “After these two first matches we have seen the maximum amount of players and we have got them up to speed.”