Rugby Union: Greenwood withdrawal upsets plans

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The Independent Online
CLIVE WOODWARD has been back to the drawing board so many times since he succeeded Jack Rowell as England coach 14 months ago that he makes the architectural wizards behind the Millennium Dome look like a bunch of cheapskate part-timers. Woodward was forced into yet another redesign yesterday when Will Greenwood, his single most potent attacking force, withdrew with a groin strain from this afternoon's Cook Cup match with Australia at Twickenham.

Phil de Glanville, the former England captain, wins his 31st cap in Greenwood's stead. The coach was tempted by the gamble of giving De Glanville's clubmate, Mike Catt, a first Test start in the centre; most enlightened rugby thinkers consider it to be his natural station, despite his own preference for the outside-half position. However, a more conservative approach carried the day - a sign, perhaps, that Woodward was beginning to feel the heat.

De Glanville's last game as national captain was against the Wallabies in Sydney in July of last year. It was also the worst game anyone could remember seeing him play.

"Phil comes into this game with all sorts of motivation behind him," said Woodward. "Not least of which is the fact that he is no longer an automatic choice at club level. I can't say I'm overjoyed that he has not played much rugby recently, but at least he comes in fresh."

Woodward's Wallaby counterpart, Rod Macqueen, was not exactly full of joy either. Having been told that Twickenham was out of bounds for training, he arrived at the stadium yesterday to discover that England had enjoyed a full run-out on the hallowed turf. "It's not a big issue, but having been denied access I was surprised to find it open to the English," he said. "I'm not sure that was in the spirit of the game."

Macqueen will be even less chuffed if his side fails to improve on the 15-15 draw they secured in the corresponding fixture last year; the Wallabies have come on a distance since then - three straight wins over the All Blacks being the high point of their dramatic rise. Matt Burke, Ben Tune and Tim Horan may be at home but any side containing Jason Little, Daniel Herbert, Joe Roff, Steve Larkham and George Gregan can cope with the setback.

Yet England possess the means of giving Woodward his first, much-needed victory over southern hemisphere opposition. Lawrence Dallaglio's return as captain and back-row buccaneer should guarantee a fast and furious forward effort. Together with Neil Back and Richard Hill, Dallaglio forms a breakaway unit that should expose the lack of footballing expertise among the Wallaby loose forwards. Toutai Kefu and Matt Cockbain are nobody's turkeys but, compared with their opposite numbers, they are biff merchants rather than craftsmen.

"Lawrence is absolutely fundamental to the way we want to play the game," agreed Woodward, who must have felt like emigrating after watching his Dallaglio-less team stumble through last week's tortuous World Cup qualifier against Italy. "I'd never before coached a side who went out and played like we did in Huddersfield. I don't intend to do so ever again."

It is not too fanciful to suggest that Dallaglio now means as much to England as does John Eales, without doubt the finest second row on the planet, to Australia. This time last year, Eales' results were nothing to write home about, since when he has barely ceased putting pen to paper. Dallaglio has made no predictions but no doubt he, too, is sharpening his pencil.

ENGLAND v AUSTRALIA

at Twickenham

M Perry. Bath 15 C Latham Queensland

T Underwood Newcastle 14 J Little Queensland

P de Glanville Bath 13 D Herbert Queensland

J Guscott Bath 12 N Grey NSW

A Healey Leicester 11 J Roff ACT

P Grayson Northampton 10 S Larkham ACT

M Dawson Northampton 9 G Gregan ACT

J Leonard Harlequins 1 P Noriega ACT R Cockerill Leicester 2 P Kearns NSW

D Garforth Leicester 3 A Blades NSW

M Johnson Leicester 4 T Bowman NSW

T Rodber Northampton 5 J Eales Queensland

L Dallaglio Wasps, capt 6 M Cockbain Queensland

N Back Leicester 7 D Wilson Queensland

R Hill Saracens 8 T Kefu Queensland

Referee: P Honiss (NZ) Kick-off: 2.30pm (Sky Sports 2, 1.00pm)

Replacements: 16 N Beal (Northampton), 17 M Catt (Bath), 18 D Luger (Harlequins), 19 M Corry (Leicester), 20 D Grewcock (Saracens), 21 G Rowntree (Leicester), 22 P Greening (Sale).

Replacements: 16 C Whitaker (NSW), 17 M Edmonds (NSW),18 M Hardy (ACT), 19 W Ofahengaue (NSW), 20 O Finegan (ACT), 21 C Blades (NSW), 22 M Foley (Queensland).

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