Will Greenwood, one of the key figures in England's World Cup campaign and the scorer of the only try in Saturday's 25-6 victory over South Africa, is definitely out of this weekend's game with Samoa in Melbourne and may not return to Australia until the quarter-final stage. His wife, Caro, is having a difficult second pregnancy - the couple lost their infant son, Freddie, just over a year ago - and has gone into hospital. The Harlequins centre has been granted an initial week's compassionate leave and flew home yesterday.
At this stage, England expect to see him in Brisbane for the build-up to the final pool game against Uruguay on 2 November. But there is no immediate prospect of Greenwood's wife leaving hospital - she may even remain an in-patient until the baby, due in February, is born - and as the match with the South Americans is a virtual no-contest, the period of leave may be extended.
"I knew about the situation all last week - my wife, Jayne, visited Caro in hospital a few days ago - and I have to pay Will a tribute," said Clive Woodward, the England coach. "It has been a tough time for him, but he has handled it brilliantly. Caro has been fantastic, too; she decided he should stay here and play against the Springboks. Will wanted to keep it quiet and not worry his fellow players, which is outstanding, considering what happened last year. I've been speaking to him daily, hourly almost. It is critical now that we get him back home so he can be at her side. All our thoughts and wishes are with them."
England, who will not send for a replacement, cannot do without Greenwood for any length of time. Mike Catt, the 32-year-old Bath midfielder, has considerable experience of the inside-centre role at Test level, but has not played international rugby for almost two years and has spent months at a time on the casualty list. Stuart Abbott, the other obvious candidate for a run against the aggressive Samoans, has only two caps, having featured in this summer's warm-up victories over Wales and France. Both men have a strong attacking dimension to their play, but neither can match the subtlety of Greenwood's distribution.
Meanwhile, World Cup disciplinary officials have decided against citing Lawrence Dallaglio, the England No 8, for punching the Springbok wing, Thinus Delport, in the second-half of Saturday's match. Dallaglio connected with Delport while both men were trapped at the bottom of a ruck near the England line. While the Englishman claimed he had acted in retaliation - "He had his hand over my face, so I gave him a slap," he explained - Delport required treatment for a wound around his left eye.
The punch was considered insufficiently serious to warrant disciplinary action, unlike the one delivered by the Fijian wing, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, who delivered a left hook of Sugar Ray Leonard quality during his country's match with France in Brisbane on the second day of the tournament. Both Caucaunibuca and his victim, the Tricolore flanker Olivier Magne, received yellow cards from the Irish referee, Alain Rolland, and the Fijian was subsequently suspended for two matches.
South Africa's management declined to point the finger at Dallaglio after the game - "Our priority is to play some decent rugby, so we'll leave the rest to the citing officers," said Rudi Straeuli, the coach - but the Boks will detect a certain irony in the situation, given the amount of criticism they received for rough play during the match with England at Twickenham 11 months ago.Reuse content