AT: Do you have a definitive game plan or are England able to adjust things according to the weather or as situations develop on the pitch?
CW: I think both, you go into the game with a definitive plan, how you think that the game is going to unfold and how you think that the opposition is going to play based on your strengths and weaknesses and based on the oppositions strengths and weaknesses. But I remember a few years ago we were training with the Royal Marines and I was speaking with a senior officer down there, in the Marines they use the analogy that they are the best and they are probably the best trained people in the world.
Their preparation is without parallel that is why they are the best. Their mind set is that when they jump out of the helicopter they believe that they know what is going to happen but the secret of success is that if it doesn’t happen that way they have just got to be able to adjust immediately and that is what I like to think that England do.
We have really worked on that and when the guys run out on Saturday night and we cross that line, we like to feel that we know how the game is going to unfold but if it doesn’t we have to change things through the eighty minutes. As I keep saying, and to some degree I am sick of saying it, it is about winning. I think that one of the key strengths of the England team is their experience. We have got six players in the starting fifteen who have all captained England, we are constantly passing messages back and forth and if we need to change things, however dramatically, there is no point in discussing things afterwards.
It is a great comparison with the Marines about how your mindset has got to be. We plan meticulously and we train as much as we possibly can in terms of thinking what we know is going to happen but equally if it doesn’t happen that way we know what are we going to do and that doesn’t come overnight, that comes with a lot of experience and hard work. And as I say we have six guys who have captained the team on merit and we also have Jason Leonard and Dorian West on the bench who have captained the side and even the players who have not captained the side have fantastic leadership qualities, such as Will Greenwood who is an outstanding player in reading the game.
But that is the secret to it, you go in with a game plan and you believe that you know what is going to work but if the opposition do something totally differently, you can’t say oh crikey we have been caught cold, you have to adapt immediately at the next scrum or lineout and just do it. I think that is one of the strengths of this England team, especially Martin Johnson who is able to pull on all the knowledge around him, listen to all the other players to what is going on. But it is about winning this game and I don’t care how we win on Saturday night as long as we win and we walk off that pitch to collect the cup, that is what it is all about.
AT: The players are constantly talking on the pitch but the South Africans, believed that they had got to England as they believed that they were all arguing with each other, but that is a good sign isn’t it Martin Johnson has to be very strong because there are an awful lot of leaders on the pitch?
CW: I knew exactly what happened there and we were laughing about what Krige said, when you are in that situation, it is very pressured and tense you don’t have polite conversations with each other, you haven’t got time to say what do you think or lets discuss this later, so the language does tend to get a little bit colourful but they all know exactly what they are saying and what they are doing but they have got to react quickly.
At the end of the day it is not a convention out there, someone has got to make a decision and clearly Johnson is in charge, Dawson is very important and Wilkinson is very important and in fractions of a second you have to make decisions about what we are doing. If it is not going well, these players will let everyone know it is not going well and if the opposition see that as a weakness they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Rugby is a great game if it is played well, a technical game and a passionate game but it is also a game for intelligence you have got to be thinking about what is happening out there, you have to be able to play with the referee, if he starts clamping on particular aspects of the game there is no point in arguing about it afterwards. You have to speak properly to the referee and understand what he is trying to do and adjust to whatever the circumstances are. We have a very vocal team out there and as they said afterwards if they think that was arguing they should see us when it really starts to kick off!
AT: It is a very young Australian pack against a very mature English pack does that benefit England or doesn’t it really matter?
CW: It matters but it depends on which way you look at it, with what we have just spoken about we have a far more experienced team out there, we have no doubt about how the Australians are going to play this game. They are going to play it at a hundred miles an hour, they are going to come up with all kinds of new things, from scrums, lineouts and tap penalties and they are going to try and play the ball all over the pitch and try and run this team out.
I know that we are able to handle that because it is not about age it is about fitness and I do believe in Dave Reddin. We have got the best guy in the World Cup in terms of fitness, probably in any sport at the moment and if he didn’t think that a player was fit enough he would tell me, he believes that these guys could go head to head with a pack of twenty one year olds in terms of ability to run round the field. We have not just arrived at this World Cup we have prepared physically for a long time now.
I believe that England are at their best, at their peak, I don’t care how old you are and as Eddie Jones said, Lindford Christie won the gold medal at 36, so it doesn’t make any difference at all. If you are not fit age is a huge difference and you can get badly caught out and it is not an old pack in terms of the front row. The front row is very young by international standards and Ben Kay is only in his mid twenties and I think that it is just a good balance, fitness is everything and I believe that to be true of Johnson, Dallaglio and Back, and Back was just outstanding against the French. They are all fitter than they have been at any stage in their lives, to me age is interesting but no more than that. It would be interesting outside of the World Cup to test the fitness of both teams behind closed doors and to see who is actually the fittest and is it an age thing, in essence are England or the Wallabies the fittest it would be an interesting thing to look at.
AT: And we are going to win aren’t we?
CW: All I can say is that we have got the strongest team that we can put out, in my opinion and I pick the team. Everyone is fit but there are no guarantees in sport. I am extremely excited by this game, I think that it is a great match up, these are the best two teams in the world. There is no doubt about how the Australians are going to play this game, they think that they have the edge, by the way they play and the fitness of their team and their ability to attack wide. All that I can say categorically is that there is nothing that I would change going into this game in the selection or training and that gives you a certain amount of inner confidence.
I have no doubt on Saturday night the adrenalin will be pumping like it never has pumped before, we have just to keep our feet firmly on the ground and take away the hype and treat it just like another game of rugby, not even against Australia, just fifteen on fifteen. As I said, when the guys go out on that pitch, it doesn’t matter who they are playing against they just have to react to what is going on and not get caught up with the occasion. They have to make the right decision and walk of the pitch with a win, how we do it I don’t really care, as long as we win it.