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England prop Dan Cole: We need to stay switched on

Prop Dan Cole knows Wales and Australia will be scenting blood after confessing England switched off during the alarming scrum malfunction that led to Fiji's try.

The hosts opened the World Cup with a 35-11 victory at Twickenham, delivering an injury-time bonus point after the arrival of second-half reinforcements from the bench rescued a team that was drifting.

Once again the scrum unravelled and the disturbing statistic of losing three on their own put-in against a front row that featured props from the French second division and Romanian club rugby will trouble forwards coach Graham Rowntree,

The low point arrived on the half-hour mark when England crumbled five metres from their own line, enabling Fiji to pounce by spiralling a kick into the corner for Nemani Nadolo to score.

Cole, who insists he would rather have Leicester team-mate Tom Youngs than Dylan Hartley playing at hooker, accepts the scrum must be rectified in time for the visit of Wales and Australia over the next two weekends.

"We've got to be better mentally because we switched off in an area in which we probably can't afford to," the British and Irish Lions tighthead said.

"On the next scrum we pretty much went straight through Fiji, so we put it right. It's not a physical aspect, more of a mental one.

"We have to understand that five metres out is an area Fiji would go for us and Wales and Australia will now be licking their lips.

"We understand we've got to be better and realise that we can't give opportunities like that to teams.

"Australia and Wales will look at that and believe they can get a result at our set piece and will go at us hard there. There will be work done. It's still a work in progress, but we understand it's got to be a quick one."

The scrum has long been a source of Red Rose strength and was viewed as a weapon during Lancaster's reign. It excelled as recently as this year's RBS 6 Nations, only for the cracks to appear during the recent schedule of warm-up matches.

The disciplinary-enforced absence of Hartley appears to have taken a toll, placing Youngs under scrutiny as a hooker whose set-piece work fails to scale the highest of his rugged presence around the pitch.

Cole, however, views his Leicester colleague as the superior player.

"I prefer Youngs. I think we work well together at the club. Yes, he's shorter and might have a bit less ballast, but technically he's very good," said Cole.

"Because he was converted from centre, he didn't have any bad habits. He worked hard with Mefin Davies and George Chuter at Leicester.

"He's one of the most powerful guys in the squad. Tom Youngs all the way."

Cole also denies there is a lack of ballast provided by the second row of Geoff Parling and Courtney Lawes, although England's lack of a giant at lock has frequently been highlighted by critics.

"Would I love 150kg, 6ft 10in lock behind me who'd make me look really good? Yes, but you've got to work with what you've got," Cole said.

"We played with a similar second row to Geoff and Courtney in the Six Nations and they did a great job. And Geoff and Courtney are doing a great job now. I've got no issues with Geoff behind me."

A penalty try, two touch downs from Mike Brown and Billy Vunipola's late barge over the line saw England home comfortably, but the score was deceiving.

"At the end there was probably a sense of frustration. We didn't control the game as well as we wanted and kept Fiji in the game throughout," Cole said.

"We're pleased to get a bonus-point victory, but it wasn't ideal."


From Belfast Telegraph