Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Men England Must Replace

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Men England Must Replace

Article excerpt


AGRAND SLAM triumph against Ireland on Saturday is vital for the evolution of an England team I believe needs to be broken up by Clive Woodward, the head coach. Yes, even if England make it third time lucky by beating the Irish, Woodward must make hugely difficult decisions and start building a team to win the 2003 World Cup.

Players of the quality of Richard Hill, Neil Back and Jonny Wilkinson have not won a Slam and the psychological damage of failing again would be devastating.

No matter what the result - and I fervently hope it's going to be a first Slam since 1995 - Woodward must have the courage to make changes.

The worst season in my time with England came in 1993 when we delayed changing the team, failing to stick with a young guy called Martin Johnson and reverted back to the tried and tested old hands like Mike Teague, Wade Dooley and Jeff Probyn. It was short sighted and we paid the penalty with losses in Dublin and Cardiff.

Jason Leonard is a great friend and an amazing player, but will those little legs make it to yet another World Cup? I can't see it happening, surely 100 caps will be enough for him!

I have reservations about Phil Greening being the man England choose to wear the No 2 jersey, and who is going to fill the void left by Back? He is another key player who is not going to be there at No 7 in Australia and New Zealand in 2003.

Will Lawrence Dallaglio be the same after his knee reconstruction and can this inspirational player carry on at the high standards he sets himself for another three years? Can Martin Johnson, the heart and soul of the England squad, also keep his body together over such a long period when he takes so much punishment week in, week out?

One move Woodward should make after the Ireland match is to take Richard Hill to one side and tell him he will be the England No 7 for the World Cup.

Just look at what he has done on two Lions tours, playing at open-side flanker. He was magnificent against George Smith in Brisbane on the recent Lions tour, but after the First Test win he was put back to No 6.

Hill is playing No 8 against Ireland, a tribute to his all-round footballing ability, but he should be the open-side flanker we build our game around. If there is one thing the England players learned in Australia it is that Hill is patently a world-class No 7.

Lewis Moody, the young Leicester forward, has enjoyed a rich vein of form since bursting through on the England tour to North America in the summer and has ousted Wasps' Joe Worsley from the replacements' bench on Saturday.

I must say that Worsley has been a massive disappointment at Wasps since Dallaglio has been injured.

Worsley is a hugely-gifted player with the kind of power other backrow men can only dream about, yet he finds it impossible to stamp undoubted authority on even Zurich Premiership matches. …

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