Thompson and Dawson pay price for humiliation

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Clive Woodward always insisted he would not over-react to the scale and nature of England's heavy defeat by the All Blacks in Dunedin, and the coach has stayed true to his word by dropping only half a dozen of last weekend's under-baked, under-motivated starting line-up. Some of those who remain - Mike Tindall and Simon Shaw, for example - have been given no more than their due; others, like the prop Julian White, are still involved only through a lack of plausible alternatives. No one can accuse Woodward of selectorial paralysis.

Clive Woodward always insisted he would not over-react to the scale and nature of England's heavy defeat by the All Blacks in Dunedin, and the coach has stayed true to his word by dropping only half a dozen of last weekend's under-baked, under-motivated starting line-up. Some of those who remain - Mike Tindall and Simon Shaw, for example - have been given no more than their due; others, like the prop Julian White, are still involved only through a lack of plausible alternatives. No one can accuse Woodward of selectorial paralysis.

James Simpson-Daniel, Mike Catt and Matthew Dawson have been cut from the back division; Steve Thompson, Danny Grewcock and Chris Jones from the pack. Tom Voyce, the increasingly potent strike runner from Wasps, will play on the right wing, thereby extricating himself from the one-cap wonder bracket; Stuart Abbott, his clubmate, replaces Catt at inside centre. Andy Gomarsall is in at scrum-half, Mark Regan at hooker, Steve Borthwick at lock - the Bath second-rower will also lead the line-out - and Joe Worsley, perhaps the best player in England over the last month, at blind-side flanker.

Woodward has never been shy in the areas of promotion and demotion; in 1998, when England last played a two-Test series in New Zealand, he also made six changes between matches. But loyalty and continuity have been his watchwords in recent campaigns. The last time he wielded the blade to this extent purely on the basis of form was in 2001, when the red rose army fired 80 minutes' worth of blanks in a Grand Slam match against Ireland in Dublin and were then stripped bare for a meeting with the Wallabies at Twickenham the following month.

Dawson and Thompson are the most prominent of the fall-guys, for both started the World Cup final against Australia in Sydney seven months ago. Dawson, a veteran of that hellish tour in 1998, played with characteristic commitment at Carisbrook last weekend, but long weeks of inactivity on the club front had left him without a pass worthy of the name. Thompson, on the other hand, was wholly uncompetitive. The outstanding hooker in the international game this time last year, his form has long been a cause for concern. Unlike Dawson, he does not even merit a place on the bench for this weekend's contest at Eden Park.

In many respects, the most significant selection is that of Borthwick, who played rather well during the second half of the Carisbrook Test, despite finding himself on the wrong end of a comprehensive thumping from the aggressive new All Blacks lock from Waikato, Keith Robinson. Borthwick is not as overtly physical as Grewcock - to be blunt, he does not have his more experienced colleague's dark side - but for the moment at least, he is the stronger man in terms of psychology. The 24-year-old Cumbrian is as devoted to the cause as anyone in the squad, and more devoted than most. He will fight, literally if necessary, for his country this coming weekend.

England can only hope Borthwick's strength of will rubs off on everyone else. Even Woodward, hardly one of life's serial pessimists, let slip hints of helplessness when he announced his side. More than once, the coach said he "hoped the team would stack up" and that he "hoped" the Carisbrook defeat was a one-off. The word "hope" was banned from the England vocabulary during the run-up to, and winning of, the Webb Ellis Trophy. It was disconcerting in the extreme to hear Woodward uttering it here. Just occasionally, the England coach came across as his usual bullish self. "When you suffer a defeat like the one in Dunedin," he said at one point, "you either front up or you stay in your hotel room and lock the door. We are not in our rooms." He also said that the Carisbrook humiliation, during which England conceded 30 points in the first half, had cleared his mind in terms of selection. "In some ways, it was like the recent All Blacks trial," he explained. "It sorted out a few things."

But more often, there was a resignation - a defeatism, almost - about his words. "We're in a rebuilding stage because of retirements, injuries and loss of form," he said. "The fall-out from winning the World Cup has been more dramatic than I anticipated. When everyone is fit, firing and ready to go, there isn't a team in the world I fear. What I didn't anticipate was losing such a big proportion of that first-choice side."

New Zealand lost a major player of their own when Doug Howlett, the victim of a heavy tackle by Tindall last weekend, withdrew from the Eden Park game with shoulder trouble. Nick Evans of North Harbour will make his first Test start at full-back, with Mils Muliaina shifting to the right wing.

TEAMS FOR THE SECOND TEST

ENGLAND: (v New Zealand, second Test, Auckland, Saturday): J Lewsey; T Voyce (both Wasps), M Tindall (Bath), S Abbott (Wasps), B Cohen (Northampton); C Hodgson (Sale), A Gomarsall (Gloucester); T Woodman (Sale), M Regan (Leeds), J White (Leicester), S Shaw (Wasps), S Borthwick (Bath), J Worsley (Wasps), R Hill (Saracens), L Dallaglio (Wasps, capt). Replacements: A Titterell (Sale), M Stevens, D Grewcock, M Lipman (all Bath), M Dawson (Northampton), O Barkley (Bath), F Waters (Wasps).

NEW ZEALAND: N Evans; M Muliaina, T Umaga (capt), D Carter, J Rokocoko; C Spencer, J Marshall; K Meeuws, K Mealamu, C Hayman, C Jack, K Robinson, J Gibbes, R McCaw/ M Holah, X Rush. Replacements: A Hore, T Woodcock, J Collins, M Holah/ C Newby, B Kelleher/ J Cowan, A Mehrtens, S Tuitupou.

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