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Andrew issues challenge to England

Former England fly-half Rob Andrew has challenged Stuart Lancaster's 2015 squad to seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lift the Rugby World Cup on home soil.

England tackle France on Saturday in the first of their double-header against Les Bleus as preparations step up ahead of the start of the showpiece tournament when the hosts take on Fiji at Twickenham on September 18.

Andrew was part of the England squad which reached the final of the 1991 World Cup, when the tournament was last played in Britain.

The 52-year-old, now rugby operations director at the Rugby Football Union, believes there is no reason why England should not meet the challenges of facing Pool A opponents Wales, Pacific Nations Cup champions Fiji as well as the Wallabies and expected whipping boys Uruguay head on as they look to eventually lift the William Webb Ellis trophy on October 31.

"You just never know how these things will play out and having a tough group is not going to any harm in the long term," Andrew told Press Association Sport.

"It will be tough to get the final squad down to 31, but it will be very strong and we will need everybody through a seven-week tournament.

"There are going to be seven big matches on the bounce to get all the way to the final, so yes it is tough group, but it is going to be tough for Australia and Wales as well."

Andrew, who was in Cambridge on Wednesday to help promote the 2015 Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour, continued: "When you get the opportunity to play in a home World Cup, of course you get pressure, that is what the England players will have to cope with, but that is part of being a top-class sportsperson.

"It is a wonderful opportunity for this group of players which they will not get again. You have just got to throw everything at it.

"All of us will never forget the 1991 World Cup journey we went on, it was wonderful through the group stages, and then onto Paris in the quarters, up to Scotland for the semi-final.

"Ultimately, of course, we fell short of being able to deliver in the final, which was disappointing, but fortunately the 2003 team restored the balance and managed to win it.

"Hopefully this group of players 12 years on can now repeat that."

Andrew, capped 71 times by England, scoring 396 points, believes having George Ford and Owen Farrell battling it out for the number 10 jersey in the starting XV can only be positive.

"You can go back in history and there has always been competition with players, I had a bit of a run in with Stuart Barnes for a few years, every era has that," he said.

"Owen and George will be battling it out for another decade, they are both young and very talented, and have been destined to be in this position.

"They have been friends and competitors ever since we first saw them in the Under-16s and England are very lucky we have players of that calibre.

"They are both fantastic young fly-halves, slightly different in how they play, but you would want them both in your squad, that is for sure."


From Belfast Telegraph