Lawrence Dallaglio says England cannot afford a slow start to the Six Nations in what will be a crucial year for the team.
Scotland at Murrayfield on February 4 is the opening fixture for Stuart Lancaster’s side, with a summer tour of South Africa plus autumn internationals against New Zealand, Australia, the Springboks and Fiji also coming up in a busy 12 months.
With the seedings for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, hosted by England, to be decided on the world rankings at the end of 2012, Dallaglio wants Lancaster to ensure his squad gets off to a flying start.
“The next two weeks in terms of the squad announcement [on Wednesday], the training camp they have in Leeds and then that match against Scotland could potentially have a massive effect on the next 12 months for England,” he said.
“We mustn’t forget England go into the tournament as Six Nations champions but it’s going to be tough. It’s always about the first game. If England can get off to a winning start against Scotland, then suddenly the rest of the tournament looks much more appetizing.”
The 2003 Rugby World Cup winner expects England’s Six Nations squad to be a mixture of fresh faces combined with a core of the party which disappointed in New Zealand last year, and he has challenged those players to prove they are worth persevering with.
“There are obviously a number of players who played in the last Rugby World Cup who still have a future in the England team. Hopefully those players will have the determination to show the World Cup was a one-off and they really can build towards the next one.”