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 ).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine