Enter Greenwood the outsider

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The Independent Online

Clive Woodward, the England coach, has made it clear that he "doesn't give a monkey's" how England win as long as they are successful. Perhaps this bald declaration was influenced by events elsewhere, coming as it did 48 hours after Kevin Keegan turned his back on Wembley and England. "At international sport, winning is everything," Woodward added.

Clive Woodward, the England coach, has made it clear that he "doesn't give a monkey's" how England win as long as they are successful. Perhaps this bald declaration was influenced by events elsewhere, coming as it did 48 hours after Kevin Keegan turned his back on Wembley and England. "At international sport, winning is everything," Woodward added.

More likely the pragmatism has been born of experience, which has seen England's star overshadowed by the Southern Cross. Defeat against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday would be unthinkable, unpalat-able - and quite possible.

Woodward might have been tempted to walk away after the World Cup quarter-final débâcle against South Africa in Paris, in a tournament prior to which he had made another memorable declaration: "Judge me on my results." Australia, of course, took a stranglehold on the Webb Ellis Trophy and followed it up with their first victory in the Tri-Nations, since when they have lost half their side. In the interim, England blew a Six Nations Grand Slam by losing to Scotland in a mudbath at Murrayfield, but emerged from their brief visit to South Africa with pride fully restored, ambition once again heightened.

England drew the Test series 1-1 but could easily have won it 2-0. In the first Test, the video referee deliberated for four minutes before ruling Tim Stimpson had knocked on over the Springboks' line, when most observers thought he should have been awarded a penalty try.

Despite that experience, the RFU, for the first time, have agreed to the presence for this autumn international of a television match official. The poor soul, a neutral observer, will sit in a sealed booth with one-way glass, watching a TV monitor with the sound turned down. He will be in two-way communication with the referee, who will ask for his advice, indicating the "square box" signal so beloved of cricket umpires, on questionable tries and goal- kicks. The experiment does not cover foul play.

The last time Australia were at Twickenham they defeated South Africa in an epic World Cup semi-final when Stephen Larkham dropped a momentous goal. The stand-off is currently injured, as is the scrum- half George Gregan and the wing Ben Tune. In addition, the centres Tim Horan and Jason Little, the props Richard Harry and Andrew Blades and the flanker David Wilson have retired from international rugby.

It didn't stop the Wallabies, who suffocated France 35-12 in the World Cup final, beating the Tricolores again 18-13 in Paris last weekend. It was a passionless affair - with the kick- off at a ludicrous quarter to nine in the evening perhaps it's not surprising - only stirring to life when George Smith, who has taken over from Wilson, was sin-binned for a high tackle of Eiffel Tower proportions.

France scored the only try of the match (the Wallabies conceded only one throughout the World Cup), but Matthew Burke kicked six penalties out of six. A French penalty which appeared to go over the bar but which was disallowed would have been a classic test case for a video referee.

Woodward, who has had the chance to study John Eales' rebuilt team, names his side on Tuesday. From his original squad he has already dispensed with Ben Johnston, who did well in South Africa in the summer, Alex King, Josh Lewsey and Simon Shaw. Alex Sanderson is injured and the London Irish hooker Richard Kirke, a New Zealander with a mother from Cornwall, has joined the party.

Phil Vickery could get the nod at tight-head prop over Julian White, and Will Greenwood is in the running to replace Mike Tindall at outside- centre. Greenwood's decision to join Harlequins this season seems less understandable than David Wilson's.

"On a personal note, it's been reasonably successful, but Quins are third from bottom in the Premiership and that's not my idea of taking the world by storm," Greenwood said. "I don't think I'm a different player to last season." The main difference is that he is playing.

With the Australian Pat Howard calling the shots in the Leicester midfield, Greenwood was confined to the bench. "They felt better suited without me, but I still thought I was playing quite well after the World Cup. By then they had a settled side and I can understand that, but my trade is professional rugby so I had to leave. It was purely a professional decision. I wasn't pissed off with anyone. I've got no enemies at Leicester. I had a great time and we won a lot of trophies."

Greenwood, who has just turned 28, left Quins for Leicester in 1996 and the following year went on the Lions tour to South Africa. Since then his progress has been hampered by several injuries. "I left Quins because I wanted to find out if I was good enough for international rugby. Leicester had the best set-up in England and if I hadn't been capped I would have known I wasn't good enough. When I first moved to London I was working in a funny coloured jacket on the stock exchange and I didn't give rugby 100 per cent."

In a funny coloured shirt, he has scored 10 tries this season and, according to Mark Evans, the Quins chief executive, is back to his best. "On and off the park, Will's been in great form. He's incredibly positive and is thoroughly enjoying himself. Leicester's loss is our gain."

Greenwood, who has spent the week selling his house in Leicester and has bought a place a short walk from Wimbledon's Centre Court, has responded to the captaincy of Wilson. "He's an absolute joy to play with. He's made me and the boys knuckle down and work harder. He's been there and done it but he's still got a huge desire to succeed. People want to play for David Wilson." And Greenwood, with a modest 15 caps, wants to play for England.

If he is recalled, he will probably partner Mike Catt at centre in an otherwise familiar- looking threequarter line, with Kyran Bracken and Jonny Wilkinson at half-back and Austin Healey and Dan Luger on the wing. The pack is also tried and tested, and it seems likely that Danny Grewcock will play at lock alongside the captain, Martin Johnson, keeping out Steve Borthwick, who was also a big hit in the Republic in June.

A rare defeat for Australia, who receive the Lions next year and have three years to prepare for the defence down under of the Webb Ellis Trophy, would not be the end of the world. The same, however, cannot be said of England and Woodward, who would settle for a Wilkinson penalty to nil, monkey business or no monkey business.

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