Rugby Union: Healey asked to take wing against New Zealand

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The Independent Online
Another England rugby union Test, another change on the wing. Austin Healey, a career scrum-half until Leicester decided otherwise, will square up to the All Blacks' state-of-the-art threequarter line tomorrow with the number 11 emblazoned on his back. Chris Hewett reports on the latest radical selection departure.

Austin Healey considers himself a scrum-half, Phil Larder says he has the footballing skills of a top-class stand-off and Clive Woodward sees him as a sharp, spikey left wing. The Leicester Lip speaks in many tongues, clearly, but it is Woodward's opinion that holds sway for tomorrow's second Test between England and New Zealand at Twickenham. Healey will definitely out-talk Jeff Wilson, the blond bombshell who opposes him - he out-talks everyone as a matter of course - but his success in outplaying the outstanding All Black wide man will be crucial to the national cause.

Larder, the former Great Britain rugby league coach who has just crossed the Rubicon to take up a technical specialist's role with Woodward's squad, believes Healey should be more closely involved in the decision-making process and is touting him as a future No 10. Not even Woodward is prepared to go that far just at the moment, though. "I'm not saying I disagree with Phil," the coach said yesterday. "It's just that I've never really thought along those lines.

"What I will say is that Austin is one of the players who has most impressed me over the last month, both in terms of his ability and his commitment in training. I have no problem running him on the wing; rugby at this level requires genuine pace and he provides it. What is more, he is one of the most destructive tacklers we have."

With David Rees returning to the right wing to go eyeball to eyeball - or, rather, eyeball to hipbone - with Jonah Lomu, and Phil de Glanville back at inside centre following ankle problems, England have reverted to the threequarter line that finished the first All Black Test at Old Trafford just over a fortnight ago. The other changes see Paul Grayson in Hobson's Choice mode at stand-off and Kyran Bracken replacing Matt Dawson inside him.

"I think we always identified this match as the biggest of the four and the most difficult in terms of preparation," Woodward said. "But we're approaching it positively, we have more pace with which to make things happen and we intend to play some football, to score tries. The statistics show that 80 per cent of Tests are won by the side scoring the most tries and they also show that England have been bottom of the league in that respect for a decade. You don't beat teams like the All Blacks by attempting to pummel them to death, so we're ready to go the other way."

Woodward knows full well that whatever else happens tomorrow, the tourists will score tries. Craig Dowd's failure to recover from hamstring trouble only increases their attacking options because his replacement at loose- head prop will be Mark Allen, one of the most capable ball-playing front- rowers in the world game. And besides, a certain Zinzan Brooke will be looking to mark his 100th and final appearance in an All Black shirt by making a mark on the scoreboard.

"We will be at Twickenham to win, but we will also be there to celebrate one of the great careers," John Hart, the New Zealand coach, said yesterday. "Zinny has carved a special niche in the game; he possesses an all-round quality that few loose forwards in history have matched - indeed, I wonder if anyone has ever matched him - and he will leave a hole we cannot fill. We won't even try to fill it."

Typically, Brooke modestly concealed what will be an emotional personal occasion within the wider All Black team ethic. "I treat all Tests on their merits and while completing 100 games in the black jersey will be a great moment for me, it can only be properly honoured by doing the job right," he said. "How will I feel at the end? I don't know. I've never retired before."

ENGLAND (v New Zealand, Twickenham tomorrow): M Perry (Bath); D Rees (Sale), P de Glanville (Bath), W Greenwood (Leicester), A Healey (Leicester), P Grayson (Northampton), K Bracken (Saracens); J Leonard (Harlequins), R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson (all Leicester), G Archer (Newcastle), L Dallaglio (Wasps, capt), R Hill (Saracens), N Back (Leicester). Replacements: T Stimpson (Newcastle), M Dawson (Northampton), K Yates (Bath), M Regan (Bath), D Grewcock (Saracens), C Sheasby (Wasps).

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