Ruck and Maul: England's women join Jonny in grappling with their sensitive side

 

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The Independent Online

Jonny Wilkinson tells in his new autobiography, 'Jonny', how he felt uncomfortable with his team-mates during England's World Cup training camp, when videos of their efforts at wrestling were screened during lunch.

But that has not stopped England's women taking to the wrestling mat before their ground-breaking three-Test series against New Zealand.

LJ Adams, a cage-fighting expert who is the No-Gi Submissions Wrestling British champion as well as being Bristol women's rugby coach, will take a session each with England's forwards and backs on Tuesday before Saturday's First Test against the world-champion Black Ferns at Twickenham.

"My speciality is grappling and destabilising my opponent," Adams told Ruck and Maul. "So if I can teach the players to do that when they are in the breakdown/contact area and make them move their bodies more efficiently against their opponents, then England will have an advantage over New Zealand."

Whatever you say, LJ.

O'Connor defends Cipriani

The women's match at Twickenham is bracketed in an attractive double-header with the Barbarians against Australia, and the Wallabies are set to field the precocious James O'Connor, previously a wing or full-back, at fly-half opposite Danny Cipriani for the Baa-baas.

The pair got to know each other this month during a week-long training camp with the Melbourne Rebels, whom O'Connor has joined from Western Force. "Danny's one of those guys who can open a game up," O'Connor told Ruck and Maul.

"He's got some footwork, he's quite a quick guy, he likes to throw the ball around and get the team moving but he's got a good balance on when to kick."

How about his defence? "A lot of defence is about mindset," said O'Connor.

"From all the conversations I've had with Danny he's going to put an onus on his defence next year. He knows he can do it, he just has to put his body in the way."

It is predicted that Cipriani will have fresh hopes of playing for England now Martin Johnson has gone. O'Connor said: "Danny's got another year on his contract and I don't know the logistical stuff of how long he'll stay but he's enjoying the rugby." In his book, Wilkinson called the World Cup balls a "joke".

O'Connor had none of it: "If you're saying to yourself a ball is going to go left it'll probably go left. I found it the same as any other ball. Dan Carter and Jonny kick upright [from the tee]. I put the ball on an angle so I'm hitting a completely different sweetspot to the straight-up-in-the-air kickers. For me it was business as usual."

Spencer in at the deep end

The 19-year-old Ben Spencer forged ahead of the former Springbok No 9 and club captain Neil de Kock to start for Saracens against Biarritz yesterday. Richard Wigglesworth, the club's England No 9, has had knee surgery and is out for the season.

Stockport-born Spencer has followed Ben Foden in starting out with Cheshire and the England Counties side. At least Wigglesworth can console himself with having bagged two Category B tickets for the 2012 Olympic Games 100m final in the over-subscribed public ballot.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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