June International Tours

Fortune puts the boot into England again

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England’s ‘Tour of Hell’ was thrown further into the abyss on Wednesday with news that a further four players will be unavailable for Saturday’s second Test against South Africa in Pretoria.

Mike Brown, James Simpson-Daniel and Andy Farrell have all succumbed to the illness that has ravaged the tour party since their arrival, whilst Andy Hazell has failed to recover from the knee injury which he suffered in Bloemfontein.

Such is the severity of the illness that has struck Simpson-Daniel and Farrell that they are not in a stable enough condition to fly home. Simpson-Daniel has failed to train all week, and was a doubt to even make the first Test but recovered enough to take his place on the bench.

As a result of the latest batch of setbacks England have called upon Bath and Saxons utility back Nick Abendanon, who will land in Johannesburg later on Wednesday evening, having been called in from the Saxons squad who are preparing for the Churchill Cup final.

“As a result of being left a little bit thin in the back three area Nick Abendanon who can cover both full-back and wing, and was man of the match for the Saxons on Monday, is flying out tonight,” confirmed Ashton.

With the fitness of the squad changing by the hour England will delay announcing their side for Saturday until Friday afternoon, or possibly even the morning of the game.

A further injury concern for England is that of inspirational captain Jason Robinson, although Ashton is fully confident he will take his place in the side.

“Jason Robinson is in the process of rehab, he came through what was required of him this morning at the gym and pool and should take his place in the team run on Friday,” said Ashton.

If Robinson is to fail in his bid for fitness England will be severely depleted in the back three, something Ashton is only too aware of.

“We have talked about all the possibilities as far as the back three goes but we will have to wait to see what happens over the next few days,” he said.

“Mathew Tait has played on the wing in a Test before but we really have to wait and see how the next two days shape up before we can make final decisions.

Despite the catalogue of injures and illnesses that have ravaged an already depleted squad Ashton is not looking for sympathy and certainly not offering up excuses before what will be another monumental test on Saturday.

“I would like to say that I am not making any excuses before the game here, I am just stating the facts of where we were at,” Ashton stressed.

“I can’t fault the players that we do have available and there has been a very positive attitude amongst the squad.

“We actually trained as well on Wednesday morning, in terms of organisation, technique and enthusiasm, as we have all tour. I cant fault the players on that side at all, and they are ready and they will be ready to play in a Test match on Saturday against the Springboks.”

The harsh reality facing England now is they will go up against a full strength South African side with what can at best be described as a patched up team. This is not a factor Ashton is allowing to affect his squad and in fact is expecting a more mature performance from them this week.

“I am expecting a stronger and more intelligent performance than we put on last Saturday.,” Ashton said.

“I think the players are bitterly disappointed with what happened last week. They felt that they let themselves down in the last eleven minutes of the game by turning ball over and the conceding tries.

“This week I will be looking for a more mature and controlled approach to the game, and it is something I firmly believe we an achieve.

“We need to have a strong mentality to ensure that we don’t make the same errors and concede points like we did in the first half and the last eleven minutes of the second half.”

As has been the case thr

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