Rugby Union: Guscott back as Woodward makes some tough decisions

England may have played out of their skins against New Zealand last December, but Clive Woodward wants more. The national coach has made three changes, only one of them enforced, for his opening gambit in the Five Nations against the French in Paris on Saturday.

Chris Hewett reports on a brutal selection.

Never believe a coach when he sets about debunking a legend in advance of a big game. This time last week, Clive Woodward was telling anyone who would listen that Jeremy Guscott, one of the sublime midfield talents of his generation, was not quite ready to reclaim possession of his England shirt after seven long months on the treatment table. "No one gets into a side of mine on reputation," Woodward pronounced. "He'll need a huge game for Bath in the Heineken Cup final to stand a chance." Guscott did not have a bad Cup final by any means - in fact, it was pretty outstanding given that he had played only one match since July - but to describe his display as "huge" would be to stretch the definition of the word well beyond breaking point. Nevertheless, Woodward yesterday named him in his starting line-up for Paris, one of Guscott's favourite rugby cities.

All of which gives the Tricolors two things to panic about. They have seen quite enough of Guscott down the years to fear his predatory instincts but, if anything, they are even more concerned about the state of the pitch at the brand spanking new Stade de France in the north of the city. The surface is frost-bound and, given the absence of undersoil heating, there is an outside chance of an embarrassing postponement.

Guscott's recall relegates Phil de Glanville, his Bath colleague, to the replacements' bench - something of an irony, given that Jack Rowell's decision to award De Glanville the England captaincy last season resulted in similar frustration for Guscott. The other back division change sees the temporary demise of Matt Perry after four consecutive Tests at full- back.

If Perry was to be deprived of all his bad luck, he would have no luck at all. The Bath youngster took a stinging slap in the face for the second week running yesterday when Woodward informed him that, like De Glanville, he had conceded his shirt to a club-mate. Not any old club-mate, either, but his close friend Mike Catt, whose lamentable goal-kicking against Richmond 10 days ago effectively cost Perry his place in Bath's Heineken Cup-winning side.

It has not been the greatest few days for the 21-year-old and when he reaches England's palatial Versailles Hotel tomorrow evening, it will be no particular surprise if he finds his room double-booked.

"I didn't expect Matt to jump up and down with joy and he was naturally very disappointed to be among the replacements, but he took the news well and he'll be all the bigger for it," Woodward said.

"To be honest, it's the first time I'd been involved in a really difficult England selection meeting. To change the side after the New Zealand game was a tough decision but we're playing away in unusual circumstances and I think Jerry and Mike bring that extra little bit of experience to the side. Jerry is a genuine outside centre and he's looking fresh. I rate Mike as a massive talent, a world-class attacking player and I'd have been happy to see him in any one of three or four positions.

"The real debate surrounded the inside centre position, where Phil and Will Greenwood were in for one place. I'm happy with the side we've come up with."

England will confront the powerful French pack with one enforced change at hooker, where Mark Regan comes in for the injured Richard Cockerill. Dorian West, who understudies Cockerill at Leicester, steps up to the bench along with Tim Rodber, the Northampton captain and last summer's Lions No 8.

ENGLAND (v France, Five Nations' Championship, Paris, Saturday): M Catt (Bath); D Rees (Sale), W Greenwood (Leicester), J Guscott (Bath), A Healey (Leicester), P Grayson (Northampton), K Bracken (Saracens), J Leonard (Harlequins), M Regan (Bath), D Garforth (Leicester), M Johnson (Leicester), G Archer (Newcastle), L Dallaglio (Wasps, capt), R Hill (Saracens), N Back (Leicester). Replacements to be named.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map