Woodward determined to chisel out sixth victory

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The Independent Online

Clive Woodward was quite adamant yesterday: the referee got it wrong. Mr Urs Meier of Switzerland, that is. England's World Cup-winning coach, already in a small ocean of hot water after aiming the word "bullshit" at the officials who dismissed Simon Shaw during last week's defeat by the All Blacks in Auckland, continued his theme of the moment by lambasting the decision to deprive Sol Campbell of the goal that would have kept Sven-Goran Eriksson's team in Euro 2004. Knowing Woodward's luck, he will be reported for his football outburst, as well as his rugby one.

Clive Woodward was quite adamant yesterday: the referee got it wrong. Mr Urs Meier of Switzerland, that is. England's World Cup-winning coach, already in a small ocean of hot water after aiming the word "bullshit" at the officials who dismissed Simon Shaw during last week's defeat by the All Blacks in Auckland, continued his theme of the moment by lambasting the decision to deprive Sol Campbell of the goal that would have kept Sven-Goran Eriksson's team in Euro 2004. Knowing Woodward's luck, he will be reported for his football outburst, as well as his rugby one.

Not that it would worry him. Twenty-four hours after discovering that Steven Tew, the deputy chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, had alerted the sport's governing body, the International Rugby Board, to the after-match events at Eden Park, the coach emerged from his corner like a light-heavyweight champion, swinging with both fists. He criticised Tew for conducting this dark piece of business through the newspapers rather than through official channels - "I wouldn't know the guy if he stood next to me," Woodward said, witheringly - and defended his right to speak his mind on subjects of concern to him.

"I am in charge of this team, I do interviews after matches and when people ask me questions, I tend to answer them," he pointed out, not unreasonably.

"I can't remember saying 'no comment' in all the time I've been doing this job. Referees should do after-match interviews as well as coaches; we're all part of the game, part of the entertainment package. If people make a slip-up in what they say, then they should apologise and move on. In my case, I don't think I made a slip. I knew what I was saying and I meant it."

"The same goes for football. When you are in my position, or Sven's position, and a decision is made that changes the outcome of a game, it's pretty tough to take."

Woodward has had Australia's number for five matches- England have held the Cook Cup since November 2000 - and if he chisels out a sixth consecutive victory with the tired, injury-riddled and understrength team available to him, it would be an achievement to rank alongside any in the coach's career, with the obvious exception of the World Cup triumph last November.

England's forwards have barely trained as a pack this week: Lawrence Dallaglio and Richard Hill have been struggling with injuries, the Wasps newcomer Tim Payne did not know he was in the side until very late - he was wandering around Brisbane Zoo when he was told Trevor Woodman had dropped out with shoulder trouble - and the aforementioned Shaw has been distracted by the fall-out surrounding his dismissal in Auckland.

Andy Robinson, the assistant coach, believes his men will scrummage well, but admitted yesterday that they had put in precious little work on their mauling game, which failed them in New Zealand.

The Wallabies, on the other hand, are up to speed after two outings against a dogged Scotland team. Lote Tuqiri, a serious proposition on the left wing, is in excellent shape; Stirling Mortlock and Matt Giteau are back in midfield after bouts of injury and illness; and the most familiar twosome in world rugby, Stephen Larkham and George Gregan, still reign supreme in the half-back roles. And then there is Radike Samo, the all-purpose forward from Fiji, whose athleticism on the blind-side flank threatens to give the Australian pack an exciting new dimension.

Robinson admitted: "They look better balanced than in the World Cup, because in Samo they have a ball-carrier to lighten the load on David Lyons, who fought a pretty lonely battle on that front before Christmas."

Samo is both taller and heavier than Dallaglio, yet has frequently played on the wing for his club side, Canberra Vikings. There are very few players in world rugby capable of lending such physical potency to the back row of a scrum. England are right to be wary of him, despite his inexperience at this level.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that England will get it right today, that they will draw strength from their backs-against-the-wall performance in Auckland, that the likes of Charlie Hodgson and Joe Worsley will move up another gear and establish themselves as Test-quality players.

Who knows? The tourists might even score a try - a feat entirely beyond them in the matches at Carisbrook and Eden Park. But sadly, from their perspective, they will probably require more than one. The smart money is on an Australian victory of the 12-point variety.

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