Pool A - England
Despite heavy criticism at home, England coach Brian Ashton has reverted to what won England the World cup in 2003 - a huge pack, Jonny Wilkinson at out-half and not much else. Brian Ashton's appointment as coach last year has not helped England's preparation – he was still tinkering with their composition a few weeks before the World Cup, two years too late.
Andy Howell may feature – a strong, direct attacker who offers little creatively. Mike Catt's selection at the age of 35 demonstrates England's limited pool of players. England is weak at scrum half – Shaun Perry is a good club-international player who struggles against the top teams.
Wilkinson's presence presents a danger purely because of his goal kicking ability and England will probably return to their 2003 tactics when they forced penalties.
England will probably lose to South Africa and will have a tough match against Samoa. They will qualify as the second placed team from Pool A to progress to the tougher side of the draw where they are unlikely to progress.
Coach: Brian Ashton (ENG)
Captain: Phil Vickery
IRB Ranking: 5
Appearances: 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003
Odds to win: 20/1
Number of clubs: 1900
Number of Registered players: 716,505
Matches MT W D L
28 20 0 8
Points For Against
Scores Tr Con Pen DG
99 76 98 14
Jonny Wilkinson remains a world class player and a key member of England's team. He is more of a defender and a kicker than an attacker, has never been a great passer of the ball and is weak passing to his softer left side. Wilkinson will convert any penalty awarded within England's half of the pitch and Ashton will strategise to maximise this potential.
Robinson is England's only cutting edge half back. Strettle's absence due to injury leaves Robinson much of the responsibility for scoring tries. While he lacks some pace and lacks a kick, he remains one of the world's best finishers. He is dynamic over the first five or 10 metres where he can easily break defences, but his impact in 2007 depends on the delivery of quality ball.
Like Carl Hayman and John Hayes, at 6'4” and 20 stone, Sheridan is one of a new breed of super-props whose height and strength offer a lot in leverage to line outs. A good scrummer and converted number eight, Sheridan carries the ball well for England. He was missed during the 2007 Six Nations when he ruled out due to injury.
Rugby in England
The current holders of the Rugby World Cup have the advantage of being the originators of the sport. William Webb Ellis was a student in Rugby School “who with a fine disregard for the rules as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it” in 1823, according to the story. Rugby clubs flourished after the first was founded in Guy's Hospital in Southwark, London by ex-pupils of Rugby School in 1843. England has the highest number of registers players in the world (716505), and largest number of clubs (1900). By Tom Rowe