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Rugby | Six Nations

Marler bullish over England's prospects



Prop forward Joe Marler has said England would back themselves to win the World Cup if it started tomorrow but stressed there was plenty of work to be done before they play host to the next edition in 2015.

England are on a fine run of form at present, having beaten world champions New Zealand in December, and they lead the Six Nations with two wins out of two.

Victories at home to Scotland and away to Ireland have left England as the only country in this season's Six Nations capable of winning a Grand Slam ahead of the visit of France a week on Saturday.

After England's record-breaking 38-21 win over New Zealand at Twickenham in December, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said Stuart Lancaster's side were capable of winning the World Cup.

And Marler said Friday: "If it was to start tomorrow, we'd back ourselves to win it. It's a little bit of an English thing in most sports, getting ahead of ourselves somewhat.

"We're on a journey as a team and each time we pull on that shirt it's another step towards that ultimate goal of a home World Cup in front of your own fans.

"That's our main goal. But we'll be focusing on the process in between then and now because it's still two-and-a-half years away, so we've got lots to do before then."

Meanwhile, England fly-half Owen Farrell, whose recent performances in the white shirt have seen him touted as a starting No 10 for the British and Irish Lions in Australia later this year, was also cautious about a repetition of the Red Rose brigade's 2003 World Cup triumph.

"The World Cup is a long way away," he said. "There's obviously loads of rugby to be played before then but that's when everyone wants to peak and that's what we want to build towards.

"As long as we keep going in the right direction, we'll be in good stead."

This week's rugby headlines in Britain have been dominated by the fall-out from Lions coach Warren Gatland's interview with the London Evening Standard where the New Zealander suggested he'd limit the number of England players in his squad.

Gatland, on secondment from his role as Wales coach, appeared to suggest an excess of England players in his party could lead to a media circus.

However, former Ireland and Wasps boss Gatland, both in the Standard article and subsequently, has insisted this Lions team will be picked solely on merit.

It was a point he stressed again during a pre-arranged meeting with Lancaster and the England squad earlier this week.

Marler said the general reaction within the England camp to Gatland's comments was one of amusement rather than anger.

"We had a bit of a giggle," he said. "I think he came out and said he was misquoted or something but for the boys, it's irrelevant."

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