English Rugby
Cohen: No excuse for England
ESPNscrum Staff
October 25, 2010
Sale wing Ben Cohen scraps against Harlequins' Mark Lambert, Sale v Harlequins, Heineken Cup, Edgeley Park, December 20, 2009
Ben Cohen in action for Sale against Harlequins © Getty Images

Former England winger Ben Cohen has warned Martin Johnson's squad that there will be no room for excuses when they embark on their autumn internationals campaign next month.

England face New Zealand at Twickenham in less than two weeks time and then take on World Champions South Africa, Australia and Samoa. Johnson has a number of injury concerns prior to the November matches with doubts over the fitness of Riki Flutey, Simon Shaw, David Wilson and Hendre Fourie.

But with just a year to go before the World Cup in New Zealand, 2003 World Cup winner Cohen insists that, injuries or not, there can be no excuses for a failure to produce performances and gain good results.

"They need to kick on from now and there are no excuses," he told ESPNscrum. "Johnno and his team are not about excuses and hopefully fingers crossed that they can kick on from that now.

"They have injuries but it is a contact sport and it can happen in training or a previous game so it is not an excuse and they have strength in depth and it is a good time to show that. It is time for players to claim their places."

The winger, now 32 and still relishing his rugby in the Aviva Premiership with Sale, believes that England showed enough in their victory over Australia in the second Test of their summer tour to suggest they are on the right track, despite the Wallabies being under strength especially up front. And Cohen, who claimed 57 caps for England, says there is still time for Johnson's men to gain the necessary results and belief to challenge the top southern hemisphere sides at next year's World Cup.

"In 2002 we were in the situation where we were going to play New Zealand, Australia and South Africa," he said. "We went into the New Zealand game as a good team and experienced team but we were still under achieving.

"The next thing we know we had beaten those three southern hemisphere sides in spectacular fashion which leap-frogged us forward and led to our Grand Slam. By the end of the Six Nations Clive Woodward knew pretty much his staring XV for the World Cup."

Into his second season back in the Premiership after a stint in France with Brive and with his career approaching its latter stages, Cohen and has no wish to set personal goals beyond playing regular rugby at Sale. But as a team, who he believes are heading in the right direction under Kiwi coach Mike Brewer, it is a different matter.

"That is our goal at the end of the season - top six," he stressed. "And personally I don't think that is negotiable."

We spoke to Ben Cohen over a pint of Greene King IPA, the Official Beer of Sale Sharks and England Rugby. Get behind the scenes rugby access and win tickets to see Sale in action at www.greenekingipa.co.uk

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