JONATHAN DAVIES: England have nothing to lose
9:42am Friday 14th September 2007 in Sport
England have endured a World Cup nightmare so far and everyone has pretty much written them off - but there is no question tonight's clash against South Africa will be a ferocious battle.
To lose fly-halves Jonny Wilkinson and Olly Barkley to injuries, and see skipper Phil Vickery land a suspension, were obviously major setbacks for them.
But England know what is coming against South Africa, and they have just got to have a crack. There is nothing to lose.
It is not a knockout game, which is a lucky thing, and in a two-horse race you have got to give England a chance.
My slight worry is that they don't seem to know what they want to do on the pitch.
If you look at teams like Australia and the All Blacks, their runners run in pairs and they are able to get over the gain-line so easily. England though run in ones and they are not getting anywhere.
If they don't get over the gain-line, I don't care who is playing outside-half, it doesn't matter. Mike Catt and Andy Farrell will have to help each other out.
Andy has been a great player. People have said he is too slow, but he has never said he is quick. He was a forward in rugby league.
He is a ball-player, not a ball-runner. If you get players running off him, he will put you through holes, but for some reason they haven't been running off him.
I am not sure what England want from Andy. He has a big-game temperament, but the pressure is certainly on him. He hasn't kicked for Saracens or England, and now he's number one.
England have got a massive pack, so South Africa won't blow them away in that area. England need to go in with confidence, put the ball in front of their forwards and pick their game up.
Martin Corry always leads from the front. He is a 100% honest guy who you want on your side, and I imagine he will be bloodied, as usual, by the end of tomorrow's game.
South Africa have lost injured centre Jean de Villiers and suspended flanker Schalk Burger, which are two considerable losses.
They are going to play the blitz defence and throw their forwards at you, although I thought Samoa rolled over a little bit against them last Sunday.
Once Samoa had a try disallowed early in the second half, they lost their shape and composure and South Africa ran away with it.
Defence will be key tomorrow because South Africa didn't really create that much against Samoa. Everyone has written off England, but if they can handle the Springboks' blitz defence then who knows?
I am looking forward to seeing Bryan Habana in action again. Here is a very special player.
He is one of those guys who is not only quick, he is also so elusive and deceptively strong. He doesn't just hang out on his wing - he reads the game well.
One thing that has really disappointed me in the World Cup has been the number of citings we've seen just a week into the tournament.
Sure, there is a job to be done in terms of keeping the game clean and ensuring it is a sporting event not marred by dirty play.
But Schalk Burger gets a four-match ban, reduced to two on appeal, for his tackle against Samoa. He is one of the world's best players, but it now looks as though we won't see him again until the semi-finals.
Burger's initial ban was very harsh, and the thing is, neither Samoa have benefited from that nor America, England's opponents when Vickery was cited and then banned.
I thought the Vickery incident was maybe a one-match ban, not two. What if that had been a World Cup quarter-final? Does it then warrant him missing the semi-final and final?
There has got to be some kind of thought and feeling of what the players are going through. Burger, especially, has been very harshly dealt with, at least initially.
Are these citing officers ex-players or referees? They have got to be very careful that they don't take the combat element out of this tournament, because that is what rugby is all about.
I would get the television match official more involved in looking at these type of incidents - all he does, at the moment, is sit there and watch tries - and also the fourth official.
If they spot something, then give the player 10 minutes in the bin, and if the incident still warrants further attention, then it can be dealt with later.