Woodward overlooks youth

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The Independent Online

The unfortunate ones - the James Forresters and Mike Worsleys of the Premiership fraternity - missed out on Clive Woodward's 43-man summer training squad, members of which spent the warm-weather months preparing for next month's World Cup in Australia. Even more unlucky were those like Simon Shaw and Graham Rowntree, not to mention the odd James Simpson-Daniel and Ollie Smith, who endured all the pain without experiencing the gain. These miserable few were the last to be cut as the England coach whittled the numbers down to a round 30.

And then there is Henry Paul, the former rugby league international reputedly coining it in union to the very merry tune of £240,000 a year. He cannot even make the top 60, according to the cast list issued by Twickenham yesterday. Paul may be turning in some quality midfield performances for Gloucester but Woodward just is not interested, and that's that. We have a very expensive white elephant on our hands.

This latest roll-call of prime sporting beef - another day, another squad - is designed to cover that part of England's season following the World Cup. All 30 of the Perth-bound party are included, even those like Martin Johnson and Neil Back, who have been known to hint at retirement following their forthcoming exertions on the global stage.

Frustratingly, there are a number of molten-hot youngsters still looking in from the outside. Woodward might have sent out a signal of intent by including Ugo Monye of Harlequins, the form wing in the country, or either of the prolific Sale finishers, Mark Cueto and Steve Hanley. Phil Greening, an old England hand now wholly out of favour, has been ignored, as has his fellow Wasps front-rower, Will Green, the one member of the World Cup 43 to have forfeited his place in the sun. Tim Stimpson, the Leicester full-back who has a move to Perpignan on his mind, is also absent.

It is good to see Andrew Sheridan of Sale and Alex Brown of Gloucester among the anointed. The two tight-forward refugees from relegated Bristol are now in positions of security, having negotiated exits from the semi-bankrupt purgatory they inhabited last season. But Woodward might have been a tad more adventurous. A number of his most obvious world-beaters-to-be - Matt Stevens and Marcel Garvey included - have been named in the national academy rather than among the grown-ups. They are big boys now, and with the World Cup acting as a natural watershed, they should be given their heads rather than swathed in nappies.

Meanwhile, the Rugby Football Union has announced a number of measures, including a move to introduce rugby to 200 secondary schools, in an effort to address a sharp decline in youngsters participating in the sport. A study carried out by the pollsters Mori revealed that the game came 15th in the popularity league, behind rounders, aerobics and dance classes.

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