If Clive Woodward is to be believed - and apart from his occasional contradictory statements, sometimes delivered in the course of a single sentence, the England coach wears his heart on his sleeve - selection remains negotiable for the World Cup favourites' opening pool match with Georgia a week today.
This is good news for people like Dan Luger. The bad news for people like Dan Luger is the proximity of the decisive meeting with South Africa: Subiaco Oval, 18 October, full metal jackets advisable. Because of the fixture schedule, Woodward will be tempted to give his élite combination an immediate airing.
Under the circumstances, then, Luger and his fellow fringe players are up against it. At best, they have only three heavy training sessions in which to remind the management of their existence. The Lions wing may be in excellent company - Matt Dawson, Jason Leonard and Danny Grewcock are among those who cannot count themselves part of Woodward's run-on XV, and it could be argued that Phil Vickery is in the same boat - but that does not make the situation any less urgent. Perth may be a relaxed kind of town (some would say sedated, if its Friday nights are anything to go by), but there will be nothing remotely casual about the tenor of this week's rehearsals.
"The preparation has been brilliant this time around," Luger said. "We've had time away - it's not as if we're bored with the sight of each other - and I am massively pumped up. I won't be around in four years' time, so when the chance comes to reclaim my starting place, I'll take it. Slow pitches are no good to me, but the conditions in Australia are firm and fast, and they suit my rugby. So it's up to me. I was pleased to make the squad, because it was by no means guaranteed, but now I'm here, I want to make the most of it."
Like his fellow 2001 Lions - 14 first-choice members of that party feature in this squad - Luger knows what it is to perform in this far-flung outpost of the union state. He put three tries past a Western Australia Select XV at the Waca, the Test cricket ground a few hundred yards from the England hotel. Those who did not make that tour are almost as familiar with their surroundings, having travelled here at Woodward's behest, and the Rugby Football Union's expense, following the victory over Australia in Melbourne three-and-a-half months ago.
That attention to detail is the mark of Woodward's approach to this tournament. A self-confessed obsessive when it comes to preparation, the coach was retrospectively horrified by his own naïveté in 1999, when he both selected uncapped players and committed his squad to a half-baked build-up against invitation teams he struggled to take seriously at the time and cannot even recall now.
While all the Pool C countries - yes, even the Uruguayans - have landed in top-notch accommodation, England have access to the very best of everything. Their current training base at Hale School is a case in point. "That school cannot have more than 200 students, yet it seems to have 200 sports pitches," said one local yesterday.
South Africa apart - and the Boks are so in love with their apartness that they have elected to stay in Fremantle, rather than Perth - England's immediate rivals are here to enjoy the tournament, not win it. The Georgians, in their first World Cup, spent last night in Clancy's Fish Pub - allegedly, the home of the Georgian Supporters' Club - and intend to treat any collective hangover by swimming with sharks today. If any England player feels like doing something similar, it will have to be incognito. Officially, the Red Rose army have not made this trip with the idea of having fun.
But then, theirs is the serious side of the tournament. "It's not us against us any more," said Mark Regan, the Leeds hooker, after the final brutal training session back in Surrey. "It's us against everyone else. Against the world."Reuse content