Six Nations Championship
Dallaglio slams unfit England
February 9, 2009
Dallaglio has issued a warning to England ahead of this clash with Wales © Getty Images
Lawrence Dallaglio has launched a scathing attack on the attitude within the England squad ahead of their Six Nations clash with Wales in Cardiff.
England opened their Championship campaign with a far from impressive 36-11 victory over Italy last weekend and Dallaglio has warned them that a similar performance on Saturday will see them "smashed" by Wales.
The former England captain did not hold back in a wide-ranging analysis of the raft of problems he feels that manager Martin Johnson must urgently address.
"If you picked your top five players in each position in world rugby, where would those England players slot in? There are not too many that would even make the top three or four," Dallaglio told PA Sport. "We have this attitude at the moment where our players walk around thinking they are the bees knees. There are a lot of guys who think they are there - but they are not.
"You wouldn't be quaking in your boots playing England at the minute. They need to set the targets higher. If we want to be the best team in the world some players have got to start giving a bit of hard work and sacrifice.
"There was a time we prided ourselves as being the fittest side in the world. We used to point the finger at other nations. When Wales start talking about being fitter in the last half hour that would really annoy me as an England player because I have always looked over my shoulder at my Welsh counter-parts and said 'I will definitely be fitter than he is'.
"The fitness guys Calvin Morris and Paul Stridgeon need to create this understanding in the England squad that they are not the fittest players in the world - and if they want to be the best team in the world they have got to be the fittest."
Dallaglio was loathe to pile into England too strongly because they did at least open their championship with a victory. But he also urged the management and the squad to be more open and honest about their expectations.
"What I wanted to see after the Italy game was someone come out and say: 'We won and that has given us confidence but if we play like that next week we will get smashed'. If someone says that at least you have the feeling that there is some realism there.
"They are not playing at a level anywhere near what it takes to win top class international rugby matches. I watched the next two games (Ireland v France and Scotland v Wales) and they looked like a completely different sport. Ireland-France was just a different level of rugby. I am sure there was not a huge amount that will have concerned the Wales coaches.
"You could argue Italy were poor and brought England down to their level? Can they get to the level required within a week?"
England scored five tries against the Azurri but two of them came directly from Italian mistakes and Dallaglio was particularly concerned at the failure to rack up a big score with the game effectively won at half-time.
"Wales have a style of play which the players are very familiar with and every player is comfortable with his roles and responsibilities in that team. They understand what they have to do to get into a situation where they can eventually score," said Dallaglio.
"England don't look to understand that yet. After half-time you would have expected them to open up and do something with the ball but they didn't look like a team that was comfortable with it or understood what to do with it."
Johnson will name his team tomorrow to face Wales and has both Mike Tindall and Ugo Monye available after they missed the Italy Test with back injuries. Dallaglio would advocate continuity of selection but he urged Johnson to lay down a stiff warning to James Haskell and Shane Geraghty, who were both sin-binned at the weekend.
England have had six yellow cards in two games. Haskell went for a trip and Geraghty for taking a player out in the air minutes after he came on a replacement. "Martin will be tearing his hair out about discipline. You can't have players getting sin-binned every game," said Dallaglio. "I wasn't shy of a yellow card but I only did it when I had to. At the moment we are just shooting ourselves massively in the foot.
"If you have to turn around to players and say 'If you do that I can't pick you because you are jeopardising the rest of the team' then so be it."