Dallaglio relishes Easter challenge

Lawrence Dallaglio is ready to "raise the bar" after potential World Cup rival Nick Easter threw down a record-breaking challenge at Twickenham. [more]

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Lawrence Dallaglio is ready to "raise the bar" after potential World Cup rival Nick Easter threw down a record-breaking challenge at Twickenham.

Both players could conceivably be named in the 30-man World Cup squad England head coach Brian Ashton will unveil on August 14.

Alternatively only one of them might make the cut for a prized back-row place alongside certainties such as Joe Worsley, Tom Reece and Lewis Moody.

And Easter, the unsung Harlequin, stole a march in spectacular fashion.

He became the first England number eight to score a Test hat-trick, while his four-try exhibition – all close-range scores as a sledgehammer pack reduced Wales to rubble – matched Neil Back’s quartet against 1998 World Cup qualifying opponents the Netherlands in Huddersfield.

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By the time Dallaglio arrived as a 58th minute replacement for his infinitely less celebrated colleague, Easter-inspired England were 36-0 up and well on their way to registering a record win over the worst Welsh team ever to visit Twickenham.

Ashton greeted Easter with prolonged applause, sufficient to suggest that a player who wasn’t even plying his trade in the Premiership when England were crowned world champions four years ago, could prove an integral part of their title defence, which begins next month.

Easter said: "To be honest, the back-row positions are always keenly contested, even if it is amateur club rugby, but none more so than at international level.

"You are under pressure to play well, and there are going to be some tough (selection) decisions to be made, but you have to push each other.

"There are a few other guys in this squad who haven’t been given the chance yet."

And Dallaglio added: "If a guy in my position scores four tries, I am delighted for him. It does not faze me in the slightest.

"We have got genuine competition in a lot of places, but if someone raises the bar, then you raise it even higher."

Not someone accustomed to playing second fiddle, Dallaglio at least got in on the scoring act during an embarrassingly easy second period when England rattled along at a point a minute.

Wales might have fielded only five World Cup probables in their starting XV – Gareth Thomas, Tom Shanklin, Hew Bennett , Chris Horsman, and Alun-Wyn Jones – but that was no excuse for a display devoid of character which should leave coach Gareth Jenkins with a face redder than his team’s shirts.

Starved of possession, they wilted under intense pressure as England romped to their biggest win in 29 Tests threatening the 70-0 destruction of Canada during former boss Andy Robinson’s first game at the helm almost three years ago.

When the countries clash again, a World Cup semi-final place could be the prize.

That possible meeting is two months away in Marseille but while Wales are likely to show significant changes in personnel, England might already have inflicted some unsightly psychological scars.

England, despite the pre-match loss of injured fullback Mark Cueto (groin) and then seeing skipper Phil Vickery suffer an ankle problem that meant he did not return for the second half, rumbled their way to an impressive triumph.

"We had to put in a performance," acknowledged Easter.

"We had to get confidence back after the South Africa tour, and we were bullied up-front against Wales in March, so we needed to make a statement in that area."

England now face World Cup hosts France home and away during the next fortnight, and Dallaglio added: "I think the time to assess our World Cup chances will be when the final whistle goes in Marseille on August 18.

"With all due respect to Wales, I am sure we will be tested in different areas next week. We are playing the World Cup hosts, so let’s make a better judgement in a couple of weeks’ time."

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