World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio admits England are light on experience for their 2015 campaign but the former No.8 insists home advantage could be more than enough to compensate.
Sir Clive Woodward’s England side that lifted the 2003 World Cup in Sydney was packed full of international veterans, indeed the back-row of Dallaglio, Richard Hill and Neil Back had 194 England caps between them on the day of that final.
And that is without mentioning skipper Martin Johnson, who had already captained two British & Irish Lions tours by then, nor the likes of Jason Leonard and Phil Vickery.
Stuart Lancaster has long espoused a desire for his England side to have at least 600 combined caps come this year’s World Cup but his final selection will fall well short of that.
After an almost entirely clean break from the woes of the 2011 World Cup campaign – only six players from that squad made this year’s 31-man group – Lancaster was always going to be short on experience.
However, all but one of England’s pool games come on home soil at Twickenham, where they have won their last seven internationals in a row – and Dallaglio admits that advantage could make up for what they lack in total caps.
“England have got a good record there so they’ve got every reason to say we’ve got to use the home advantage as much as possible, they are certainly unbeaten there for a little while,” he said.
“What England don’t have is huge amounts of experience. World Cups tend to be won by teams with a lot of experience. I remember from my own experience in ’03 – it was my 65th cap, the World Cup final, so I’d been through a lot and I think a lot of former winners will tell you often experience counts for a lot.
“Obviously England don’t have that so what they have to use is what they do have, which is perhaps that home advantage.
“Going into the tournament not as favourites you know the pressure is always on the favourites, New Zealand. They want to be the first team to successfully defend the trophy – no other team has ever done that so I think that gives you an indication of how hard that is to do.”
If England are to go deep in the tournament they will have to make it out of the hardest pool in the history of the World Cup.
Picked alongside Australia, Wales and in-form Fiji, Lancaster’s side will have to hit the ground running this Friday against the Pacific Islanders at Twickenham.
But if they can overcome those pitfalls Dallaglio sees no reason why the Red Rose cannot go all the way.
“It’s such a close one to call in Pool A,” he added. “They could all beat each other.
“You look at Wales’ recent record, they have lost to England the last couple of times and they have lost to Australia the last eight times they’ve played them so the Australians have got to be going into that game feeling particularly confident.
“But anything can happen in a World Cup. I think for me the opening game, Fiji, if England are able to come through that clearly and if they win the big game against Wales they then take momentum.
“They take control of that group and that kind of allows them to go into that crucial game against Australia without it being do or die. You lose that first game and you’re in big trouble.”
SSE Customers can win the chance to host the ultimate SSE Reward Rugby House Party on 31 October. Enter now at ssereward.com