Rugby Union: Rodber ready to lock horns with best

THE ENGLAND selectors were always likely to wield the big stick after watching their team fumble their way around Huddersfield with a white one last Sunday and, sure enough, Clive Woodward and his fellow wise men yesterday made four changes to the line-up for this weekend's revenge mission against Australia at Twickenham. Out go Dan Luger, Garath Archer, Ben Clarke and Martin Corry; back come Lawrence Dallaglio, Richard Hill, Tony Underwood and, most significantly, Tim Rodber, who effectively launches himself on a new career as an international lock after winning 32 red rose caps as a loose forward.

By way of warming up his charges for the battle ahead - and they are not short of things for which to fight, given the record 76 points they leaked when they last shared a pitch with the Wallabies - John Mitchell, the assistant coach, decided the time had come to stop the small talk and tell it how it is. Or, rather, tell it how it was. "God, we were bad against Italy last Sunday," he said, his All Black eyes aglow with indignation.

"We were dull, we were boring, we were conservative. We must be the easiest team in the world to defend against; I know I wouldn't need too may hours in front of the video to work out where we were coming from. I'll tell you something else: I wouldn't have paid 30 quid to watch that rubbish. It's time we started delivering. There has been too much talk, too many excuses and too few results. We have to rise to the standard on Saturday. We have no choice."

Point taken. The burning question surrounds the wisdom, or otherwise, of asking Rodber to reinvent himself in such close proximity to John Eales and Tom Bowman, who undoubtedly constitute the best second row combination in world rugby. Rodber has been around comfortably long enough to know what's what on a Test paddock - he won his first cap under Geoff Cooke and Will Carling way back in 1992, when men were men and line-out jumpers had to fend for themselves - but this is still an almighty ask, as the Wallabies would say.

"We've been thinking about this for the last 12 months and the time to find out whether you're right or wrong is against a side like Australia rather than some second-rate side incapable of asking the really hard questions," said Woodward, whose tenure as head coach has been marked by a desire to dismantle England's traditional tight game in favour of some zip and pizzazz. "I think this move has real potential; Tim is an experienced international and, besides, he will have a lot more experience around him. We need to find out if he can cope and I don't want to be wondering still when we get to the World Cup."

Privately, Woodward believes he is nearing the end of his period of experimentation; indeed, Rodber may be the last man to enter the Twickenham test tube. By the time England open their Five Nations campaign against Scotland at the end of February, the coach expects the full World Cup Monty to be in place. Hence his decision to revert to his favourite back row triumvirate - Dallaglio, Hill and Neil Back- rather earlier than Clarke and Corry, his most recent additions, would have liked.

"Actually, I'd have gone back to that combination for the World Cup qualifiers against the Netherlands and Italy had Lawrence not been injured," said Woodward. "It's been frustrating not being able to field them as a three for so long. They served England very well indeed against the All Blacks last year but, after the second Five Nations game, Richard was gone for the season. I'm still very excited about the things they might achieve together and I've no hesitation in playing them against the Wallabies."

Underwood's call-up makes him the 14th wing used by Woodward in a year and, while his supporters will wonder why it took the coach so long to identify their man as the best of a less than vintage bunch, injuries have proved a major obstacle to top-level recognition since the end of the 1997 Lions tour of South Africa, from which he returned with a Test cap and a half bottle of bubbly as joint leading try-plunderer. His return gives the England threequarter line a more threatening appearance and when David Rees of Sale declares himself fully fit - "he's not quite there for this level of rugby but it won't be long," promised the coach - the back division really will be ready to roll.

But before the pretty boys can don their skates, the uglies have to front up at the sharp end. Rodber has rattled his fair share of cages in the past, notably against the Springboks in Pretoria four and a half years ago, but never from a work station in the engine room. If he fails to learn on the hoof this weekend, Woodward's best laid plans will splutter to a halt.

ENGLAND (v Australia, Twickenham, Saturday): M Perry (Bath); T Underwood (Newcastle), W Greenwood (Leicester), J Guscott (Bath), A Healey (Leicester); P Grayson (Northampton), M Dawson (Northampton); J Leonard (Harlequins), R Cockerill (Leicester), D Garforth (Leicester), M Johnson (Leicester), T Rodber (Northampton), L Dallaglio (Wasps, capt), R Hill (Saracens), N Back (Leicester). Replacements: N Beal (Northampton), M Catt (Bath), D Luger (Harlequins), M Corry (Leicester), D Grewcock (Saracens), G Rowntree (Leicester), P Greening (Gloucester ).

Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor