Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

New Skipper Least of Woodward's Worries

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

New Skipper Least of Woodward's Worries

Article excerpt

England chief Sir Clive Woodward will be more concerned by a lengthy injury list than appointing a new captain during the build-up to this season's RBS 6 Nations Championship.

Woodward, currently in New Zealand for an International Rugby Board conference, has seen more than a third of his original 30-man World Cup squad suffer fitness setbacks since lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy in Sydney two months ago.

Nine players are currently sidelined - Jonny Wilkinson, Richard Hill, Matt Dawson, Lewis Moody, Julian White, Mike Tindall, Iain Balshaw, Mike Catt and Martin Corry - while prop Stuart Abbott and prop Phil Vickery are just one game into comebacks following injuries.

On top of that, fly-half Charlie Hodgson suffered a recurrence of knee trouble during Sale Sharks' Heineken Cup defeat against Leinster yesterday. Hodgson is the natural replacement for Wilkinson, if England's World Cup match-winner remains absent due to a shoulder problem.

While Wasps back-row forward Lawrence Dallaglio is a clear favourite to captain England in the Six Nations following Martin Johnson's retirement from Test rugby, Woodward has more pressing concerns with a tournament opener against Italy just four weeks away.

Dallaglio, Woodward's first skipper when he took over in 1997, stepped down as captain after 14 games in charge following newspaper allegations about his private life that he vehemently denied.

Johnson and Dallaglio apart, eight of England's World Cup squad have previously skippered the red rose brigade - Neil Back, Kyran Bracken, Jason Leonard, Dorian West, Dawson, Vickery, Wilkinson and Hill.

Johnson believes that Woodward is spoilt for choice over the eventual appointment of his successor.

"Matt Dawson, Neil Back, Richard Hill can do it. Lawrence (Dallaglio) would be a great captain.

"It's a great squad - they want to win for each other," Johnson said. …

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