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Mallett: England must be positive

England must avoid "negative thinking" at this year's World Cup, according to former South Africa coach Nick Mallett, who feels New Zealand can no longer be perceived as outright favourites.

Mallet was suitably impressed by the recent RBS 6 Nations, which saw Ireland retain their title on a frenzied final day that also saw big wins for Wales and England.

Such was the appreciation, Mallett feels southern hemisphere big-hitters like the All Blacks and South Africa will think twice before claiming superiority by default.

However, the ex-Italy coach urged Stuart Lancaster not to retreat to a conservative mindset when it comes to his England selection for this autumn's showpiece.

"England have expanded their ability to attack, with (George) Ford at fly-half and the introduction of (Jonathan) Joseph," Mallett told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"So they are a much more exciting and more dangerous team.

"To get rid of that backline because of a perceived need to be more conservative at the World Cup is negative thinking.

"But the stronger the depth in your squad, the better chance of winning this tournament; and England have got a lot of strength in depth at the moment."

While England's fourth successive Six Nations runners-up spot was labelled "unacceptable" by Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie on Monday, Mallet saw a different picture.

"It was a great advertisement for northern hemisphere rugby," he said.

"I can promise New Zealanders, South Africans, Australians and Argentinians were watching, and probably what was spoken about was 'why on earth can't northern hemisphere teams play like that all the time?'

"I don't think you can say New Zealand are necessarily very confident of winning this World Cup, coming to the northern hemisphere and having to play teams like Ireland, England or Wales, who have made appreciable improvements in the past few years."

England will kick off their Rugby World Cup campaign on September 18 against Fiji, with defending champions New Zealand taking on Argentina two days after that.

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