Scene is set for England to shine

DAN Hipkiss believes England fans should be looking forward to a successful World Cup ahead.

Form going into the tournament, having Martin Johnson at the helm and even the weather are all reasons for optimism, according to the Bath centre.

The quick-fire two matches against Wales brought a win and a defeat but it is the 20-9 victory in Dublin last month that has increased Hipkiss’ confidence.

The Bath centre, who was born in Ipswich and raised at Diss RFC, said: “With a World Cup, you look at the form going into the tournament and England can take a lot of heart from the win in Ireland. In the two matches against Wales, they experimented a little with different players but in Ireland, it was pretty much their first choice side bar Lewis Moody.

“The weather in New Zealand will also help England and could play into their hands. Whether it is Jonny Wilkinson or Toby Flood at fly-half, they will kick well and I can see them playing a limited game to suit the conditions.”

Tipping France and Ireland as potential dark horses, Hipkiss believes the presence of Johnson is crucial to England’s chances.

He said: “He has been there and won the World Cup and it will be great for the players, especially the ones who have never experienced the tournament, to have him there.

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“He will be respected and say all the right things when needed. But his best quality is he knows when to stay silent and let the players do their own thing. You can’t be too hands-on when you are a coach, players need to make their own decisions.”

Hipkiss, a squad member from the 2007 tournament when England reached the final, believes hosts New Zealand have to start as favourites but that home advantage is not always a good thing.

He explained: “New Zealand will be going into the tournament under a lot of pressure as the home team. In the last World Cup, we played hosts France in the semi-finals and it was their game to lose – and I think it really showed. We felt it was us against the world, everyone had written us off. No one expected us to make the final but we had a honest discussion as a team and we used that to our advantage.”

The World Cup starts this morning with New Zealand facing Tonga (9.30am start ITV1) before England begin their campaign against Argentina tomorrow morning.

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