We need winning mentality - Leonard
Published 19/08/2011 | 18:12
Jason Leonard has warned England they must perfect the art of winning close games if they are to stand any chance of regaining the World Cup.
England have just one more warm-up match before travelling to New Zealand, against Ireland next Saturday, and there has been plenty to concern manager Martin Johnson about their recent displays. They had looked in their best shape since their 2003 World Cup triumph during last year's autumn internationals and the start of this year's RBS 6 Nations, but their performances have tailed off.
Leonard, who is still Test rugby's most capped forward, said: "They have got to go out and treat each game as their last.. In a World Cup, it doesn't matter if you win each game by one point and get through to the final and win by one point."
Leonard, who was promoting the second Help for Heroes benefit match - the 'Heroes Rugby Challenge' - which takes place at Twickenham on December 3, added: "You don't have to be the best team in the world - which I think is how New Zealand have approached it - for four years.
"You only have to be the best team in the world for four weeks and you've won a World Cup."
Johnson will unveil his 30-man squad for the tournament on Monday and reports on Friday suggest Harlequins winger Ugo Monye and flanker Chris Robshaw, and Saracens lock Mouritz Botha, will be among those to miss out.
It also looks like Lewis Moody will be named captain, providing his troublesome right knee injury does not flare up again, even though the flanker may not feature against Ireland in Dublin next weekend.
Moody would lead a pack good enough to topple the world's best, according to Leonard, who urged the back line to take advantage of their good work.
"I think the English pack could take on the All Blacks tomorrow," he said. "We've got to now develop that to our 15-a-side game as well.
"If we're not going to convert our chances behind the scrum, you're always going to be in trouble."