England will make their second appearance at the 2011 Rugby World Cup when they take on the minnows of Georgia in Dunedin on Sunday morning. The Six Nations champions will be the hottest of favourites to claim full points here and maintain their perfect record.
Martin Johnson’s men got their campaign off to a winning start last Saturday, with a narrow 13-09 victory over Argentina, the normally reliable boot of Johnny Wilkinson suffering a rare off day.
While the English and in particular Wilkinson have been criticised for the narrow margin of their success the Puma’s are a strong side at international level and continue to be underestimated. The South American’s knocked Ireland out of the last World Cup and are a strong, well balanced side. It was no disgrace for England to struggle against them.
While England’s performance garnered much attention, so too did the team’s decisions to enjoy their day off with a night on the town and some bungee jumping although the English rugby union’s decision has not taken any action against the players involved, suggested it was little more than a storm in a teacup.
Georgia did better than expected when going down 15-06 to a second string Scotland side in their midweek opener. The Eastern Europeans made the Scots work hard and while the winners were largely disappointing, the minnows must be given some credit for frustrating them and stopping them from playing their natural game.
The Georgians will aim to do the same with the English and get in their face early they may be able to turn the match into a battle. If that happens then the score may be kept respectable. However, should the English get off to a flyer than this has the makings of a bloodbath.
Their cause will be helped by the banning of lock Courtney Lawes, who is out for two games after recklessly striking” Argentina’s Mario Ledesma with his knee on Saturday. The 22 year old will also miss the clash with Romania.
In fact with the threat of a fine also hanging over the English team following the peeling off of their numbers from their shirts in the game against Argentina, Martin Johnson could be forgiven for thinking that outside forces were hampering his bid to become a World cup winning manager.
A good dominant performance against the Eastern European’s will take the attention away from the negative headlines however another sluggish performances and Johnson and his players will once again be under the spotlight.
There was some positive news ahead of the game with a further 5,000 tickets selling in the days leading up to the game meaning that more 15,000 people will pack into the Otago stadium to watch this David and Goliath class.
England are 10/11 with a 35 point deficit in Stan James handicap betting and this looks the punt for anyone that fancies an interest in the game. The Georgians will undoubtedly be tough opposition but the superior class of Johnson’s side should see them go close to covering the handicap.