- Squad has grown immeasurably over the last few weeks
- We'll work hard to keep on improving after Wellington win
'Nothing that we do is done in vain. I believe with all my soul that we shall see triumph' (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities).
I firmly felt a week before last weekend's tournament win that we were back on track. After the lows of the previous tournaments, it would have been easy to panic and think we were doing it all wrong.
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Change seemed like a plausible thing to do but in fact we did the exact opposite. Our direction of travel wasn't going to change. We all knew that we needed to get back to winning ways and I felt the best way to do that was to stick to our plan, keep the faith with the players I had seen work so hard and care so much for what we do and ride out the storm.
Everyone else felt the same, so when we lifted the cup on Saturday night, my thoughts went to all those that had worked so hard to stick to the plan. Nadine Cooke, our Operations manager who was cheering us on in the early hours from her South London home, was as important a part of this as Marcus Watson who made a quite incredible track-back tackle in the final that proved pivotal. The team behind the team have been quite magnificent these past few weeks and really did all they possibly could.
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So did the players. Last weekend was a turning point for many of our younger ones. You can instil as much belief and confidence in a team as coaches but it's never going to be as powerful as the tangible reward of winning a title, beating New Zealand en route and confirming the things we say to them every day.
I have seen a lot of our squad grow immeasurably these last few weeks and for them all now to be compared to the winning side of 2009 in Wellington is a real credit to them. Most of that team that memorably beat New Zealand in that final were the first to call and send messages once the whistle went.
It's a few days on now and the feelings of joy and pride after the final whistle on Saturday have given way for some head down pragmatism.
Thirty hours of travel to Vegas with a lot of battered bodies means we need to be careful about how we manage the players this week. I'm keen to get them back on the training field sharpish but do need to balance that with rest and recovery.
Of course I was pleased with the success on the field in Wellington but still feel we have room for a lot of improvement. We can play better and the squad all know that which means they are very prepared to put in the extra work on and off the field to get where we want.
The field at Vegas is the biggest difference to last week. Where the Wellington field is 70m across, the pitch in the USA is less than 55 metres so that makes a big difference to the style of play and certainly makes it a challenge.
It means our speed men will not have as much grass to scorch across so we will have to be clever as to where and how we attack and defend. Samoa won this tournament last year and played a power-based game, smashing their way through the draw.
We aren't packed full of 100kg wingers so that won't be how we play, but it is what we will come up against and it will really test the lads' ability to raise their game again.
They won't be short of courage though. You saw that last weekend as they made tackle after tackle for the team. We often grab the headlines for the speed and flair the side possess but last weekend it was about our mental resolve and our willingness to out work the competition. We need that again this weekend. Come on England!