Cohen: Millennium mauling will help England in bid for World Cup glory


Former Saints winger Ben Cohen has told England that experiencing and understanding the pain of Saturday’s Grand Slam failure will only improve their chances of winning the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Cohen was part of the England set-up under Sir Clive Woodward that saw their Grand Slam ambitions crushed at the final hurdle in both 2000 and 2001.

But that England side grew from those setbacks and in 2003 they completed a Six Nations clean sweep before going on to win the World Cup.

Franklin’s Gardens favourite Cohen drew a number of parallels between his own experiences at Murrayfield in 2000 and England’s record thumping by Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

“I look back to 2000 when we went for the Grand Slam in Scotland and we got completely out-passioned on the day. That happened to England on Saturday,” Cohen told TalkSport.

“They have come a long way in the last 12 months and had some fantastic wins but you can’t gain the whole experience and be a rounded player without losing big games.

“I think in some respects they need to lose some games and understand the hurt of losing, so when they come to the World Cup and they are at Twickenham under huge pressure they can go out and win.

“There will be a lot of pressure on England at the next World Cup and this is character-building for them.”

Cohen has been disappointed by England’s lack of penetration in attack. They only scored five tries in the tournament and four of them were against Scotland on the opening weekend.

“This is constructive criticism but England don’t have an attack that could outplay an opposition and sometimes I think they are one-dimensional and I don’t think they have a counter-attack,” Cohen said.

Cohen would like to see Saints full-back Ben Foden restored to the team while coach Stuart Lancaster is likely to cast his eye over Christian Wade, Jonny May and potentially Marland Yarde on the summer tour to Argentina.

Lancaster is also anxious to increase England’s ball-carrying options and the Wasps number eight Billy Vunipola is in line for a Test debut against the Pumas.

“I’m hoping we will lose some players to the Lions, which will give us a chance to bring other lads in,” Lancaster said.

“It is probably also the right time in those midweek games and Tests to look at other lads and put pressure on lads in certain positions.

“What we need to create with England is greater strength in depth. We missed Ben Morgan as a ball-carrier up front and Billy Vunipola, who will come through.

“We’ve got some younger wings who we want to have a look at on the summer tour, but it’s about finding the right place and the right time to give them experience.”