Dubai: England 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson has challenged Stuart Lancaster’s side to go unbeaten during next month’s autumn internationals series.
England will play Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand at Twickenham from November 10 to December 1 following a disappointing tour of South Africa over the summer, when they lost 22-17, 36-27 and drew 14-14 against the Springboks.
Speaking on the sidelines of rugby boutique store Eden Park’s sponsorship agreement with the UAE national rugby team in Dubai Mall on Wednesday, England’s most capped hooker with 73 international appearances called for a resurgence from the national side.“England have to win at least three out of the four autumn tests,” said Thompson, 34, now living in Dubai having retired after breaking his neck for a second time last year. “It’s a results game, especially if you’re playing at home. If they are building for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, to be held in England, they’ll want to make sure that becomes a fortress and they’ll want to win every game.“They had a good Six Nations [finishing second] after heading in as an unknown quantity. South Africa was always going to be a steep learning curve, but they have to learn from these experiences and see if they’ve matured as a team,” added Thompson, who is most synonymous with English club side Northampton. “It doesn’t matter how close the scores were in South Africa — a loss is a loss. You’ve got to make sure those same mistakes don’t happen again. If you switch off for five minutes, you can be two or three scores down. This is what happened.”Thompson added: “For young players to learn from that is brilliant, as long as they have learnt and become better for it. It’s a good test to see where they are now and the good thing about the autumn internationals is every game is totally different — you’re not playing a team that plays the same brand of rugby. That’s good for England and, if they can learn from experience, they’re in with a good shout.“New Zealand could turn up tired from The Rugby Championship and hopefully England can go for it. But they’ll have to play well every game because Fiji could do well — there’s no point writing anyone off.”
England attracted attention for all the wrong reasons during the last World Cup in New Zealand last year, when they were knocked out by France in the quarter-finals following a string of off-field antics.
But Thompson believes Lancaster has made a good start in getting the right togetherness back in the England squad.
“England had been coasting along and it needed a big shake-up after what happened,” he said. “Stuart Lancaster has got the pride back in the shirt. Players really want to play for England again and you can see competition for places is huge.
“He’s really changed the ethos back to how England fought a few years ago. He’s got some of the best upcoming coaches in place and you can see that the players love playing for them.”