Lewsey hoping England have learnt from South Africa shock

Last updated at 15:13 05 October 2007

Josh Lewsey is confident the fall-out from England's "darkest hour" can drive them to victory over Australia in tomorrow's World Cup quarter-final showdown.

The England squad met for full and frank discussions on what had to change the day after they crashed to a dismal 36-0 pool defeat to South Africa.

Josh Lewsey (right) and Johannes Muller

England had lacked direction and purpose in a performance Lewsey indicated encapsulates perfectly four wasted years as world champions.

The players knew things had to change and said so and the shoots of a recovery were evident in the wins over Samoa and Tonga.

Things are still far from perfect but Lewsey knows one big performance against the Wallabies could suddenly see England cast as the World Cup's dark horses.

"The South Africa game was a summary of some of the disasters that have occurred over the last couple of years," he said.

"It was very, very disappointing. After the game there were some stern words said and we had to iron out the detail of what we were doing.

"The important thing was that we drew line in the ground and said 'what do we need to do to put things right?'

"Rugby is a simple game but easily complicated. We needed to get a clear and concise attacking framework so we know what we are doing.

"It was very important we all bought into the same mindset of what we tried to do. Then we put that into the training and then into the games.

"We scored some good tries against Samoa but only played really well for about 50 minutes and let them back into the game. But we took another step forward against Tonga and showed signs of our attacking ability.

"If we do that we give ourselves a decent chance. It is too early to say we are building momentum but if we beat Australia at the weekend you could say we are coming up on the rails.

"To do that we need to put an 80 minute performance together. We are positive and you have got to be confident. Australia versus England is always a fantastic occasion whatever the sport is."

England are expected to play a tight, confrontational brand of rugby built around their powerful forward pack, partly because it is what they do best and partly because it will limit the lethal Wallaby back division.

Rookie Berrick Barnes will come under pressure at fly half but, in George Gregan, Matt Giteau, Stirling Mortlock, Lote Tuqiri and Chris Latham, Australia boast backs who would push for selection in a world XV.

"Where Australia are excellent is their adaptability," said Lewsey. "They have great footballers over the field. In the nine, 10, 12 channel they are very creative and they are very slick in terms of bringing other runners into the game.

"They have a nice blend across the team and that is why they are one of the most enjoyable teams to watch.

"They can keep oppositions guessing what they are going to do and they have just started peaking at the right time."

Tuqiri goaded the English earlier this week by declaring Jason Robinson is the only world class red rose back.

Lewsey laughed it off - but agreed with Tuqiri that Robinson could be a potent force after he recovered from a hamstring strain suffered against the Springboks which seemed certain to end his World Cup.

"It would have been a terrible way for him to go out. To go out injured in one of England's darkest hours wouldn't have been fitting," said Lewsey.

"I have played with Jason a lot. He is not the traditional full-back but he is immensely powerful off the mark and very elusive.

"If you build a wall across the field he will still find a way to get through it. We all know his ability but its a case of the team playing well as a whole shape to give guys like Jason, Sackey and hopefully myself a chance to get into the game."

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