Specialists favoured as Woodward leaves out Healey in final cut

Countdown to the World Cup: After the victory over France, England's coach omits utility player and two of his most dependable forwards
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Clive Woodward described it as his hardest decision in six years at the sharp end of the international coaching game, and he was not even talking about Austin Healey. Woodward omitted the fast-talking Leicester Lip from his 30-man World Cup squad - preferring to take Andy Gomarsall of Gloucester as his third scrum-half and Mike Catt of Bath as his extra stand-off - and confessed it was hard on his most versatile player. But the exclusions of two honest-to-goodness tight forwards, Graham Rowntree and Simon Shaw, were the ones that really stuck in the coach's craw.

Shaw, the outsized second row from Wasps, would, Woodward reasoned, be first choice for any other Test team on the planet. The treatment of Rowntree, as loyal and committed a front-row servant as ever pulled on an England shirt, also kept the coach from his beauty sleep. But Woodward was unapologetic as he made his final cut yesterday. "It is scant consolation for them that they have contributed to England's success, but I have to be practical," he said.

Woodward culled five squad members in the immediate aftermath of his side's comfortable victory over France at Twickenham on Saturday - the others being Ollie Smith, the Leicester centre, and James Simpson-Daniel, the Gloucester wing. Smith misses out because Catt can do a turn in all three midfield positions and because Stuart Abbott, the South African-born newcomer from Wasps, showed just enough promise and form during the summer schedule to suggest he might be able to add a sharp attacking edge to England's backline.

Simpson-Daniel can consider himself exceptionally hard done by. Probably the most gifted of the new red rose generation, he lost out to the more experienced Dan Luger, despite the latter's chronic injury record and indifferent club form.

Up front, England will travel with four props - one fewer than generally expected - and only three specialist locks. Every coach in the tournament has been forced into a gamble of some description because the 30-man rule is tight in the extreme, but the European champions could find themselves exposed, especially if their injury-prone front-rowers bruise a knuckle or have their ribs rearranged by some hard-tackling Samoan. Martin Corry, the aggressive Leicester loose forward whose magnificent performances over the last three weeks railroaded Woodward into dropping a specialist lock from his equation, is certain to find himself in the engine room at some point.

Healey, who featured in all five of England's games in the 1999 World Cup and started four of them, was struggling the moment Woodward looked outside his squad and sent for Catt following Alex King's withdrawal through injury last Wednesday evening.

"I've had a long chat with Austin," Woodward said. "The big thing everyone has to get his mind around is that I'm not taking a squad of utility players. When we play these games, I must have the best 22 available to me. Austin has had a year out with injury, and has not done quite enough to win selection."

ENGLAND WORLD CUP SQUAD

Full-backs/wings
I Balshaw (Bath)
B Cohen (Northampton)
J Lewsey (Wasps)
D Luger (Perpignan)
J Robinson (Sale)

Centres
S Abbott (Wasps)
W Greenwood (Harlequins)
M Tindall (Bath)

Fly-halves
M Catt (Bath)
P Grayson (Northampton)
J Wilkinson (Newcastle)

Scrum-halves
K Bracken (Saracens)
M Dawson (Northampton)
A Gomarsall (Gloucester)

Props
J Leonard (Harlequins)
P Vickery (Gloucester)
J White (Leicester)
T Woodman (Gloucester)

Hookers
M Regan (Leeds)
S Thompson (Northampton)
D West (Leicester)

Second rows
D Grewcock (Bath)
M Johnson (capt, Leicester)
B Kay (Leicester)

Back rows
N Back (Leicester)
M Corry (Leicester)
L Dallaglio (Wasps)
R Hill (Saracens)
L Moody (Leicester)
J Worsley (Wasps).

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