Cohen's withdrawal forces England rethink

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It came as no surprise, but it was desperately sad all the same. Ben Cohen, informed of his father Peter's death on Tuesday only minutes after celebrating his call-up to the England team for this weekend's Cook Cup Test with Australia at Twickenham, yesterday withdrew from the game for the most obvious of reasons. Austin Healey, of Leicester, replaces the Northampton wing in the starting line-up, with Will Greenwood, of Harlequins, filling the gap on the replacements' bench.

It came as no surprise, but it was desperately sad all the same. Ben Cohen, informed of his father Peter's death on Tuesday only minutes after celebrating his call-up to the England team for this weekend's Cook Cup Test with Australia at Twickenham, yesterday withdrew from the game for the most obvious of reasons. Austin Healey, of Leicester, replaces the Northampton wing in the starting line-up, with Will Greenwood, of Harlequins, filling the gap on the replacements' bench.

"Ben called me this morning and we mutually agreed that he will not take part," said the England manager, Clive Woodward, whose best-laid plans now need considerable tinkering. "Our deepest sympathies are with Ben and his family at this difficult time. We have agreed that he will rejoin the squad next week as we prepare for our Test match with Argentina."

While Healey's promotion gives the England team a more settled look - the "Leicester Lip" has been central to the red rose army's attacking game since Woodward first picked him on the wing for the 26-all draw with New Zealand three years ago - there will be considerable sympathy for Cohen, whose forthright finishing in the Six Nations' Championship marked him out as a player of genuine potential. He lost his place to Dan Luger for the first of the summer Tests in South Africa, but replaced the same player for the second in Bloemfontein and contributed fully to a famous English victory with some heavy-duty tackling.

It will be fascinating to see whether the manager now reverts to the fluid, Healey-based offensive strategy employed by England during their World Cup warm-up matches last year. Cohen would have provided plenty of raw power, but his replacement is equipped with a real footballer's brain. Woodward will surely make full use of it.

Comments