Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Dawson: All Blacks will be focused

England must not confuse Brodie Retallick's inability to name a single member of Stuart Lancaster's squad for complacency among the All Blacks, according to Matt Dawson.

Blundering New Zealand lock Retallick clutched at straws when quizzed on England's likely line-up for Saturday's first Test in Auckland.

The Chiefs second row suggested 'Michael Lawes', meaning Northampton lock Courtney, when pressed for the name of just one England tourist.

World Cup-winning scrum-half Dawson has warned England not to treat Retallick's gaffe as any hint the reigning world champions will be undercooked at Eden Park this weekend.

"It's not disrespectful," Dawson told Press Association Sport.

"Players are focused on so many other things these days that sometimes the opposition are not in the forefront.

"It's maybe indicative of the modern animal you're dealing with, rather than any kind of ignorance.

"In a charged moment they might use it, but I'm sure there was no disrespect meant.

"Players might not be able to name names, but you can be damn sure the All Blacks will know exactly who they are playing against this week when they are doing their homework.

"No one is as prepared as the All Blacks, they pride themselves on the work they do off the field, and that hasn't changed since they won the World Cup.

"So that's why they are the number one team in the world."

England's tour has been beset by injuries and unavailability for weeks in advance.

Head coach Lancaster must do without the Aviva Premiership finalists from Saracens and Northampton for Saturday's first Test, owing to botched International Rugby Board fixture scheduling.

A total of 16 players joined the tour on Monday, who will compete for selection for England's second New Zealand Test on June 14.

Parallels have already been drawn with England's 1998 Tour of Hell to Australia and New Zealand given Lancaster's stretched resources.

Former British and Irish Lions scrum-half Dawson captained England on that disastrous tour of seven games and seven defeats.

The 77-cap playmaker said while England are severely depleted this summer, the depth at Lancaster's disposal rules out direct comparisons with 1998.

Dawson believes every England tourist can still force their way into Lancaster's squad for Rugby World Cup 2015.

"Those days are gone, thank goodness," said Dawson of that winless 1998 tour.

"The standard of player, the difference between first, second and third string is marginal, whereas back then there was a huge gulf in the talent.

"Now every player that will go on that trip could be in Stuart Lancaster's World Cup squad.

"That certainly wasn't the case in 1998, there was a few of us that went on to the World Cup, but a huge number from this touring party will be involved this time."

Dawson said England's fringe players have the perfect platform to showcase their World Cup credentials in Saturday's first Test.

"I think players will still put markers down for the World Cup, they will still want to win at least one of the games, and I think if they do, it will have been a successful tour," he said, launching the Karcher Cleans Britain campaign.

"A lot of those players are going to get a chance, and a long chance, more than a half of rugby, to show Stuart Lancaster and the coaching team that they are able to play at the highest level and able to be involved in the World Cup squad."

:: Matt Dawson is backing Karcher Cleans Britain, a campaign encouraging the nation to take pride in their local sports grounds and to clean up local community areas.


From Belfast Telegraph