Rugby Union: Greenwood could miss World Cup

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The Independent Online
WILL GREENWOOD is going through one of his philosophical phases, which is probably just as well given he spends most of his time sitting down and thinking. Sadly, the classiest inside-centre in Europe may soon find himself thinking the unthinkable: namely, that the pelvic injury responsible for keeping him out of all rugby since England's narrow defeat of Italy just over four months ago may pose a threat to his participation in the World Cup.

"I would love to be in a position to say when I'll play again, but I really don't have the faintest idea," said Greenwood, who is suffering from osteitis pubis (inflammation of the pelvic bone) a condition that responds only to complete rest. "I thought I was close to playing three weeks ago; I was doing all the track work, 200m sprints and 400m runs, and things looked hopeful. But when I really tried to push it, the discomfort flared up again.

"At the moment, I'm working on a two-week cycle; after a fortnight's rest, I have a run-out and see how things are. Then I take another fortnight off and so on. I'm not in any great pain. I can walk about normally and even run without trouble. But when it comes to the first five per cent and the last five per cent, the injury limits me. I can't get out of the blocks and I can't accelerate to top speed. I haven't a clue when it will clear up."

Notwithstanding the startling emergence of Jonny Wilkinson as a Test midfielder of unlimited potential, Greenwood remains the most potent back available to Clive Woodward, as the coach plots his course towards the biggest tournament in the history of the game; indeed, Wilkinson would still be on the outside looking in had the Leicester centre not been interrupted in full stride.

But much as Woodward would give his eye teeth to see the two players operating in red rose tandem, with Wilkinson at outside-half, he will not take Greenwood to Australia for this summer's warm-weather World Cup training camp unless he produces a clean bill of health.

"My latest scan picked up some hot spots, so the condition is still active," Greenwood said yesterday. "But there's no point my getting stressed about it. The injury will not heal any more quickly if I get angry, so I might as well accept that it's happened and follow the best advice available. As for my immediate future, it's all in God's, um, groin, so to speak."

The uncertainty over Greenwood means Woodward will almost certainly resist what must be a growing temptation to fall in line with public opinion and hand Wilkinson the stand-off role. According to Rob Andrew, who knows more about life at No 10 than any Englishman alive and also understands Wilkinson better than Wilkinson himself, the 19-year-old goal-kicking phenomenon should be spared the play-making role until has paid a few more dues at Premiership level.

"It's a really difficult call and one I wouldn't like to make, but there is a real danger of excessive public expectation here," said Andrew , who plays alongside Wilkinson at Newcastle and, in his role as director of rugby, is effectively the youngster's guiding light. "There is a clamour for him to be given the No 10 shirt and the moment he gets it, everyone will expect superman to turn up. You have to be a bit careful with Jonny. After all, he's played virtually no senior rugby at outside-half."

If Greenwood's lack of progress is giving Woodward cause for concern, at least the Irish know exactly where they stand with Eric Miller. The former Leicester No 8, who now plays his rugby for the Dublin-based Terenure College outfit, needs surgery on the ankle injury he suffered during his country's Five Nations defeat in Scotland 10 days ago and will miss this summer's two-Test tour of Australia - a tough trip made all the harder by the likely return to the Wallaby side of one of the world's outstanding full-backs, Matthew Burke, after a career-threatening shoulder dislocation.

Meanwhile, a Special General Meeting of the Rugby Football Union has been called for 6 June. The meeting will consider the Reform Group's proposed vote of no confidence in the union's management board.

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