Wilkinson: Tough pool can help England's World Cup chances


Jonny Wilkinson believes England's tricky 2019 Rugby World Cup draw could help Eddie Jones' side banish the memories of their miserable campaign in 2015.

England became the first host nation not to make it out of the pool stage two years ago as Stuart Lancaster's reign came to a shuddering halt.

Jones replaced Lancaster at the helm and has revived their fortunes with 17 wins out of 18, claiming two Six Nations titles along the way as they climbed to second in the world rankings.

Their opponents in Pool C for the 2019 competition in Japan will not be easy, though, with Argentina and a resurgent France joining them along with qualifiers from the Americas and Oceania.

Wilkinson - a World Cup winner in 2003 - says having a strong pool may not be a bad thing, and could help them launch a title challenge.

Speaking to Omnisport at a live screening of the 2019 Rugby World Cup draw, hosted by Land Rover, the former fly-half said: "It does look like the most challenging group in terms of just sheer game-in game-out competitiveness.

"We still don't know who those qualifiers are, so there is a big challenge there but at the same time I think that is the secret for hitting the ground running when it does come to quarter-final time. 

"It's being challenged, being shaped and refined by all these massive games. These games knock you into shape. Games where you don't really hit that level don't necessarily help, they are steps forward to the quarter-final rather than a step towards being the best. 

"I think England, if they can turn up in the right way and perform in the right way, all of those games will push them towards finding that level they need to win the World Cup, if they get through the group."

Should England maintain their impressive form under Jones they will go into the tournament as one of the favourites to topple New Zealand, something Wilkinson believes the current squad are confident of doing.

"I think they are in great shape, they are in a great position and seem to have a great spirit about them, just looking in from the outside and a little bit from the inside," he added.

"From speaking to the players there is a degree of confidence there and depth of understanding about who they are, what they are trying to achieve and how they are going to do it. 

"The depth of squad and talent needs to continue, because with that many big games you are going to have to call on a lot of people to do the job. At the same time it's a big reminder that you can't try and peak for one game. 

"You need to go in there knowing that you're seven out of 10 is good enough to beat everyone else's nines and 10s."