Rugby Union: Woodward's selection turns on fitness issues

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The Independent Online
ROD MACQUEEN probably took all of 30 seconds to decide on an unchanged Australia line-up for this weekend's one-off Cook Cup Test with England at Twickenham. When you have just won three on the bounce against New Zealand and seen off the French in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower wholesale alterations are hardly a burning priority.

If only Clive Woodward, the England coach, were able to join his Australian counterpart in the selectorial comfort zone. Woodward will have spent the last couple of days pondering two closely connected issues: firstly, whether Lawrence Dallaglio, David Rees, Tony Underwood and Kyran Bracken might be considered fit enough to last 80 minutes of hard international rugby and, secondly, whether it might be worth including them en bloc. Two other players, Will Green of Wasps and Richard Hill of Saracens, will also have been under consideration last night.

The Wallaby line-up gives English supporters their first live look at Tom Bowman, the sensational new second row, as well as another chance to enjoy, if that is the right word, the unique scrummaging talents of Patricio Noriega, Australia's latest front-row recruit from Puma country. Steve Larkham, a revelation at outside-half this season, is also assured of an audience following his outstanding contribution to last season's corresponding fixture, a 15-15 draw. Larkham played at full-back on that occasion and very nearly stole the silver.

AUSTRALIA (v England, Saturday): C Latham; J Little, D Herbert, N Grey, J Roff; S Larkham, G Gregan; P Noriega, P Kearns, A Blades, T Bowman, J Eales (capt), M Cockbain, D Wilson, T Kefu.

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