Trevor Woodman says the fitness of powerhouse loosehead Mako Vunipola will be critical to England’s chance of success in Japan.
World Cup winner Woodman wants the side to take inspiration from their Sarries sextet of Owen Farrell, Mario Itoje, Jamie George, George Kruis and the Vunipolas, Billy and Mako.
Woodman, now coaching at Gloucester, said: “England have got a great chance and look the strongest of the northern hemisphere teams.
“They have a great set-piece, great individual ball-carriers and they’ve got that all-round game among the forwards as well. If they get Mako back on the loosehead after his hamstring trouble, his carry-tackle power is immense. He’s crucial to their success, when he’s playing, generally the team wins.
“And the back-line has big men and threats everywhere. They have a power game in attack and defence to go a long way in this tournament and win it.”
Asked to compare the readiness of the current England team with the experienced ‘Class of 2003’, Woodman said: “Back then we were coming off domestic and European campaigns in which Leicester, Wasps and Gloucester had been doing very well.
“That confidence increased with what our England team produced and if you look at Saracens now, they’re leading the way in Europe and six of their side will provide the core of the team. You’ve got to build on that because they’re setting the standards. With Leicester being so successful, we fed off guys like Martin Johnson, Neil Back and Ben Kay, along with others from Wasps and Gloucester like Lawrence Dallaglio, Mike Tindall and Phil Vickery.
“They drove the international game and it’s the same with these Saracens guys now. They are used to winning. They’ve got the core of this England pack – five of them – plus the captain, Owen Farrell, who’s pulling the strings, and you saw in the way they came from behind to win the European and Premiership finals what they’re all about.
“It was the same when we had Johnno as captain, he knew what to do when things got sticky. That’s the thing I can align between the two sides that gives me the confidence to believe England can win.”
Despite worries over Mako’s fitness, Woodman believes England have one of the best front rows in the business. “It’s very, very powerful and Kyle Sinckler’s grown massively as a player,” he added. “And you’ve got Dan Cole who can do a great job if needed.
“At loosehead, Mako brings great strength, Joe Marler who gives you a brilliant set-piece and Ellis Genge has huge impact off the bench. It’s unfortunate Dylan Hartley is injured but Jamie George is the No.1 hooker and Luke Cowan-Dickie is an explosive option from the bench. Explosiveness is England’s trump card, both starting and off the bench.”
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