Phil Vickery on the Autumn Internationals
England will miss Phil Vickery this month after he was ruled out for three months with a neck injury, but he was good enough to offer his thoughts on the Autumn Internationals to help Gurus make their predictions.
As far as England are concerned this Autumn, there aren't any easy games - it’s a very different kind of rugby against Australia and New Zealand. English rugby versus South Africa isn’t quite as far apart, but with Australia and New Zealand there are many factors coming into play.
The forwards do n’t work as hard as we do in the UK. The game is not as forward-oriented as in the Northern Hemisphere, but that then means they often create more scoring opportunities. A balance between the two styles is probably the optimum.
England's preparation has been excellent. A lot of the guys haven’t been together since the Six Nations and there are some new faces around. It’s a big shift change in mentality too going from your club to the demands of the England camp - there’s all the analysis and statistics of the game, and the corporate requirements as well. Intensity in preparation and training builds rapidly now in this second week, though you are relatively well adjusted - it used to only be one week so now having two gives us a better chance to make the switch and be prepared and at the top of our game.
There is a lot of pressure on England - tremendous pressure and pride too. One of my greatest moments was getting my 1st cap for England at Twickenham in front of 80,000 people. Unbelievably moving. But club rugby is very different from playing for England…we all take what we live and breathe with our club for granted. At the international level it’s a different way of playing, different styles of coaching and training. The two weeks together is a great time to make the transition and change habits. England needs to get a win early on, build on the momentum and gain confidence – and remain positive.
Wales have got a few injury issues but they are backed by a well formed and settled coaching team, and a good strong core. If they can start well and gain momentum like they did in Six Nations they could do very well. They have a good opportunity to beat New Zealand, but it certainly won't be easy.
Scotland could cause an upset and I have great admiration for their coach Andy Robinson. If they play well against Fiji, they should cause Australia a few problems a week later.
I think Ireland will do very well; they have a cohesive team and should do well in their games. They are the only home nation to take on South Africa, but if they can build some momentum with victories over Australia and Fiji, they'll have a good crack at the best team in the world.
There are also some interesting warm-up matches, and it's great to see them included in the SportGuru tournament. Warm up games are fine and a great chance for the club fans to watch international rugby, but is it helpful to the club given the possible injuries sustained, extra pressure on the management and squad? It’s a great experience for the club though and I think the positives do outweigh the negatives, and it certainly adds an extra element to the predictions game!