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Henry: England will bounce back

New Zealand coach Graham Henry predicts England's failed Grand Slam attempt will make them a force at the World Cup.

Martin Johnson's side have been crowned RBS 6 Nations champions for the first time since 2003 despite a 24-8 rout by Ireland that ended their pursuit of the clean sweep.

"England are obviously a pretty good side," said the former Wales coach. "Getting beaten by Ireland won't have done them any harm, which is annoying. The Irish Test will be a wake-up call that will make them a better side."

He added: "They played well and will be a competitive side at the World Cup - again. We're impressed with what England have done this year. They're a better side now than they have been for a few years and they will get better. They're starting to play top-quality rugby again."

New Zealand, Australia and South Africa predictably lead the World Cup betting - in that order. Henry, however, insists there is no guarantee a Tri-Nations side will win the tournament and expects northern hemisphere teams to mount a challenge this autumn.

"England made the final in 2007 and they won the previous World Cup," he said.

"There's no established order at the World Cup, plenty of teams have the potential to do well. That won't change this time.

"With France you're just not sure who will turn up, but they have a lot of quality players to pick from. They will be competitive because they have the players to do the business.

"The Irish showed against England that they can produce a top game.

"Wales have the players to be very competitive if they put some bits and pieces together. They are in reasonable form.


From Belfast Telegraph