Will Greenwood, who scored the try that finally set England on course for a vital 25-6 victory over South Africa, will fly home from the World Cup today on compassionate leave. His wife, Caro, is understood to be experiencing difficulties with her second pregnancy. A little over a year ago, their first child was born prematurely; he lived for less than an hour.
Greenwood, who pounced on a charge-down by Lewis Moody to break spirited Springbok resistance with a try near the posts, is expected to be at home for a week and will not be considered for next Sunday's Pool C match against Samoa in Melbourne. The plan is for the centre to return for the final group match against Uruguay, but yesterday's win lifted the pressure. England are now set to win the pool and take an easier path through the knock-out stages. A quarter-final, probably against Wales beckons, rather than a testing encounter with New Zealand.
It was the left boot of Jonny Wilkinson that eased England's path to victory. The stand-off contributed 20 of his side's points, including two drop goals, as England struggled to impose themselves at the Subiaco Oval. "He's fantastic,'' Martin Johnson, England's captain, said of Wilkinson. "I'm glad he's on our side. It might not have been the prettiest but it's all about winning. We fumbled and bumbled in the first half but it's great to play a tough Test and come through.''
England struggled for long periods, but Wilkinson applied the coup de grâce in the second half as his opposite number, Louis Koen, suffered an evening of torment. Koen missed four penalties in the first half and in the 62nd minute conceded the game's only try to Greenwood after having a clearance kick charged down by Moody. The predominantly English contingent in a crowd of nearly 40,000 finally found the confidence to sing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot".
England's coach, Clive Woodward, said: "We played pretty well in the second half and there was a massive feeling of relief. It was a must-win game. There were massive consequences for the side that lost." He admitted England were "nowhere near our best", but added: "We'll get stronger with every game. We've beaten South Africa five times in a row and I never thought the result was in doubt. We haven't conceded a try in two games and play well under pressure. At half-time in the dressing room there was no panicking, no shouting. Everybody was cool."
Last year, in an ill-tempered affair, England triumphed 53-3. Yesterday South Africa, with only two survivors from that traumatic experience, upset England with their tackling and harrying. They did not allow Johnson's men to settle, and as a result England were forced into making nervous errors.
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