“If England don’t front up against South Africa, they’ll come badly unstuck”.
Those were the words of former England and British Lions hooker Brian Moore ahead of Saturday’s game against the Springboks.
Speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes News following the release of his latest book ‘What goes on tour, stays on tour’, Moore was keen to highlight the importance of a solid, cohesive unit as Stuart Lancaster’s side continue to build ahead of next year’s World Cup.
And after England came agonisingly close against the All Blacks last weekend, the man known as Pitbull is expecting another tough ride against South Africa at Twickenham.
“It will be a difficult match. I think there is a lot of pressure on both sides now, but I actually think the game on Saturday, certainly physically, will be even harder than the New Zealand game.”
And while the 24-21 defeat to the All Blacks wasn’t comprehensive, Moore wasn’t in the mood to make excuses:
“Whilst you’re building a team, yes you can look at the performances,” the former England international added.
“But time is running out to keep saying after games that there were positives. Once you start getting within one year [of a World Cup] and you are getting closer, then you need to be winning, because that’s all that matters in the end.”
The ever-changing centre partnership is one issue that needs to be addressed by England’s coaching staff, according to Moore.
“If you were to pick the same two players in the centre for the rest of the games before England start their World Cup campaign they’d only have around 10 games together. When you come up against a centre pairing of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, who have got 60, 70 [games together], then you are going to be at a significant disadvantage.”
“They may get away with it, but it would be far preferable if all the units in the team were thoroughly familiar and well versed with playing together because obviously that increases your chances of playing well.”
The importance of a good team spirit and cohesion amongst a squad, comes across as of vital importance in Moore’s book, and this was highlighted further when asked about Steffon Armitage’s omission from the England set-up.
“Imagine this. If you’d been an England player and you’d been taught for years that loyalty for the team is paramount and you’ve put all this effort in, and then you find someone might come in that seems to have been exploring whether to play for one country or another, you think to yourself ‘everyone else here is focused and this guy seems to just be an opportunist’,” said Moore.
“But despite their selection issues, England, as a home side, have a good chance of reaching the final and then it’s a one-off game”, according to Moore.
For those with enthusiasm for the hosts’ chances, it’s 7/2 that England lift the trophy on home soil come June next year.
‘What goes on tour, stays on tour’ by Brian Moore is published by Simon & Schuster UK and is available now.