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Wales and England Need to Look Beyond the Familiar Stories in New Zealand

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Following World Cup failure, heroic or otherwise, teams and coaches usually head into the tournament promising this one will be different and lessons haven't been learnt. And while there was plenty fresh for both England and Wales to ponder from their opening game, their tournament has already taken a familiar look to it.

We have been here before with both sides. In 2007, England's start was equally slow and ponderous, with the 36-0 defeat by South Africa in the group stages a nadir. Gradually, the team found some fluency and consistency and confounded the critics by reaching the final. Wales, meanwhile, promised much but threw away a quarter final spot in a thrillingly inconsistent match against Fiji.

Now, the fall out continues from the Argentina game (although, unlike France, this has the added entertainment of dwarf throwing in the mix). England were ragged, indisicplined and incredibly fortunate that Martin Rodriguez was suffering with the boot as badly as Johnny Wilkinson.

Yet England still walked away as victors, despite Argentina being the better side for much of the game.

And, unlike their counterparts with the round ball, a poor England opening performance at the World Cup does not necessarily signify a quarter final exit or worse.

Martin Johnson's men have passed the trickiest game in the group, just. They now face Georgia and Romania in their next two games before Scotland in the final pool match. There is every possibility England will just need the bare minimum by this stage.

Courtney Lawes will be missing for these following his two-match ban for recklessly striking Mario Ledesma. You suspect England can cope with his loss against Georgia and Romania far better than they would against the Scots.

Andrew Sherdian is arguably a bigger loss, but even then Matt Stevens steadied the game against Argentina when he replaced the Sale prop.

Stevens may usually play tight-head, but the win against Argentina gives Johnson the chance to tinker with his front row selection until he finds the right blend, and the Saracens forward deserves his chance at loose-head.

England, then, are not exactly home and dry. But it would be a brave gambler who bets against them reaching the quarter finals.

Wales, on the other hand, are also facing up to a familiar story and one they'll hope isn't a repeat of France 2007.

There is no doubt this Welsh squad are far better prepared than the side that crashed out to Fiji at the Stade de la Beaujoire in 2007. And their game against South Africa has been the most exhilarating, exciting edge-of-your-seat match that this World Cup has produced so far.

But, excellent performance aside, they lost. Again. Another heroic defeat to one of the top test teams, which has become all to familiar to Welsh fans over the years.

Victory over the Springboks would have given Wales much-needed breathing space in a tricky group. Instead, they have a tricky tie against Samoa on Sunday and a final group game against the Fijians in their final Pool D game.

Granted, the islanders aren't quite as strong as the side from 2007, but they still represent an unwelcome obstacle to the quarter-finals. The bonus point Wales gained against South Africa could be crucial.

Warren Gatland has stuck to his guns with his selection against Samoa, naming an unchanged side and, crucially, keeping James Hook at full back rather than number 10. It is a sign of a confident man, but also risky.

If Wales need a cutting edge, then Hook at fly-half and Jamie Roberts could supply this. Leaving out Stephen Jones altogether is also a gamble, given Wales were in need of an experienced head while trying to keep their lead against South Africa.

For both Wales and England, then, there are familiar questions, strengths and weaknesses. And while one team may be playing dashing rugby and one griding out a result, there's still no doubt who is best placed to qualify (even if Scotland may have something to say about that).

England need to change their mindset, but not their resolve. A youthful Wales side, however, need to learn from mistakes of the past and go all out for victory. Another what could have been tournament will be no less painful, no matter how good the rugby played.