Ashton admits England shortfalls
England coach Brian Ashton admitted his team had not lived up to expectations in their final World Cup warm-up, but also said the title holders still believed in their chances of making a successful defence.
"There's a belief that we actually can surprise some people but there's an awful lot of work to do," Ashton told reporters today in Marseille, where England lost 22-9 to Cup hosts France last night in their last match before the tournament starts.
"It's not an impossible challenge at all," Ashton said when asked about England's chances. "We can play better than we did yesterday, we know that. We've just got to make sure we do when the moments arise."
England, who had kick-started their preparations with a 62-5 demolition of Wales, then lost 21-15 to France at Twickenham last week before falling to their arch-rivals again in Marseille.
Unlike last week, when England had dominated in the scrums and lineouts, yesterday's match was a one-sided affair.
France resisted pressure from England in the first 15 minutes, then took control in every area of the game.
"We didn't front up when it came to the basics of our game, which is something we had done the last two weeks," Ashton said. "I'm disappointed with the lack of composure the players showed at times."
"Our lack of creativity is also a concern. We can't just play damage limitation and rely on just one area. We need to add other bits and pieces to our game and get the full platform right if we are to make a defence of the World Cup."
The only real good news for Ashton on Sunday was that England captain Phil Vickery, who was stretchered off with concussion on Saturday, had fully recovered.
"I've just had breakfast with him, he's fine", the England coach said.
England open their defence against the United States in Lens on September 8th.