Rugby Union: Woodward set to be named England's tactical guru

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The Independent Online
England do not possess a coaching team to prepare the national side for the forthcoming quartet of Tests against the southern hemisphere superpowers, but such irrelevances are no concern of Twickenham's. Today, Rugby Football Union officials will name an elite party of around 50 players for the first squad session of the season at Bisham Abbey next Wednesday.

Those dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists who subscribe to the Willie Duggan theory of winning rugby - "The best way to take the edge off your form is to go training," said the Irish No 8, famously - might press for a continuation of the status quo and let the players coach themselves. More realistically, the RFU are now likely to confirm Clive Woodward's appointment as full-time tactical guru next week.

With Roger Uttley well-nigh certain to be named in a managerial role and Rob Smith, the popular and hitherto underrated Wasps coach, emerging as a late contender to complete the front-line panel, the long-running saga caused by Jack Rowell's sudden abdication is now nearing a belated conclusion. The contractual small print is in the hands of the lawyers and should be rendered watertight by this weekend.

Today's squad will include all the English Lions who triumphed in South Africa this summer - at least, those who are fit - plus the majority of those who squared the simultaneous Test series in Argentina. Woodward and company will have had only a minimal say in the composition of the party but will wield far greater influence when the numbers are narrowed down later this month.

Meanwhile, Australia, who play England at Twickenham on 15 November, have bitten the bullet rather more quickly than the RFU. Yesterday, the Wallabies paraded Rod Macqueen as their new national coach in the wake of Greg Smith's decision to jump before being pushed following his side's 60-point humiliation by the Springboks last month.

Macqueen has agreed a two-year contract leading up to the 1999 World Cup and, in many ways, he was the obvious man for the job. His work with the Cinderella-like ACT province, who reached the Super 12 final during the summer, has been sensational and that success has marked him out as a highly capable motivator.

On the domestic front, the RFU will make half the draw for the second round of the national knock-out cup on Monday. The 56 home sides will be named, with the draw completed seven days later after the competition's new sponsors, thought to be Carlsberg-Tetley, have been confirmed.

John Hall cleared, page 2