Rugby Union

England new boys must step up

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Mike Tindall became the final member of the 2003 World Cup winning England team who defeated Australia on their home turf 20-17 to retire, ending an era rugby fans grew up with as one of the greatest teams of their generation. But now the old guard have left a legacy, can the new boys carry on England's prestigious image?

Recently head coach Stuart Lancaster took an experienced team and a few new faces on a tour to New Zealand, only to see his players suffer three straight defeats to the All Blacks with their third test ending in a demolition job, as Lancaster's men flew back to England feeling deflated.

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This was a reality check that New Zealand aren't a side to fall down easily and it won't be an easy task to beat the current world champions, but considering England will be hosting the 2015 World Cup next year can they achieve a repeat of 2003?

Class of 2003

The 2003 heroes went into the global competition as the favourites, cruising through their group hammering the likes of South Africa, Samoa and Uruguay remaining unbeaten in their pool.

Sir Clive Woodward's men went on to beat neighbours Wales in the quarters before beating the French to take on the Australia in the final, and considering The Wallabies were the host nation England were tipped as favourites before the game kicked off.

The rest is history with Johnny Wilkinson single-handily crushing Aussie hearts and Martin Johnson lifting the prestigious title.

But with the current squad, having just lost out on the Six Nations championship due to a defeat on the opening day to France, before beating both Wales and champions Ireland, they would need to get through the pool of death first.

With Wales and Australia lining up as opening fixtures it seems like it would be a challenging task, even for Sir Clive Woodward, but they would need to impress considering the two previous World Cups were disappointing and fans were left watching a dismal display, especially in 2011.

Previous tournaments

The 2007 World Cup in France saw England face a hammering defeat to South Africa on the opening day before bouncing back to make it to the final thanks to the left foot of Wilkinson again, until South Africa stopped the party beating Brian Ashton's team 15-6.

Then four years later in New Zealand, under Martin Johnson, things took a turn for the worst.

Considering England cruised the group stages, a quarter-final tie against France saw Johnson's men fumble and lose 19-12 missing the fight fans are used to seeing, as the players seemed more focused on their off the pitch antics.

The point fans need to take into consideration is how far this England team have come since their dismal display four years ago, as now England have a new coach, captain and a new pool of players to choose from.

On top of the changes within the team, England are the host nation and in two of the three previous tournaments the host nation have made it to the final, and considering Lancaster's men are seen as an unbeatable force at Twickenham this could work in their favour come next year.

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