Rugby Union: World Cup Stars Miss Twickenham Party

The Birmingham Post (England), December 13, 2003 | Go to article overview

Rugby Union: World Cup Stars Miss Twickenham Party


Byline: Andrew Baldock

England's so-called World Cup celebration match at Twickenham will feature only five players who started the final against Australia in Sydney three weeks ago.

But red rose supremo Clive Woodward last night offered a positive outlook on the non-cap World Champions Challenge between an England XV and the New Zealand Barbarians.

A sold-out Twickenham --the final 20,000 tickets were snapped up during a frenzied three-hour selling spree --will not see World Cup heroes like Jonny Wilkinson, Martin Johnson or Lawrence Dallaglio in action a week today.

Fly-half match-winner Wilkinson was not considered because of a neck-shoulder injury but the likes of Will Greenwood, Ben Cohen, Matt Dawson and Neil Back are also missing.

The five World Cup starters named by Woodward in a 22-man squad are wing Jason Robinson, centre Mike Tindall, hooker Steve Thompson, prop Phil Vickery and flanker Richard Hill.

Gloucester star Vickery will captain the team in Johnson's absence.

England's entire World Cup squad, though, will be present to parade the Webb Ellis Trophy on a lap of honour immediately after the match. That includes players such as Johnson, Back, Ben Kay and Mike Catt who are likely to be on Premiership duty for their clubs the same day.

Johnson and his Leicester team-mates are at Northampton that afternoon, with Bath ace Catt lining up against Newcastle. But a 5pm kick-off means they should arrive in time for the post-match parade, especially as the Rugby Football Union are providing transport.

A presentation will be made to prop Jason Leonard, marking his world-record 113th cap won in Australia, while Wilkinson and scrum-half Kyran Bracken will be honoured for reaching 50 Test match appearances.

But a capacity Twickenham audience will see only half of the victorious World Cup squad.

Seven of Woodward's 22 were not even chosen for Australia --James Simpson-Daniel, Ollie Smith, Charlie Hodgson, Mike Worsley, Andrew Sheridan, Hugh Vyvyan and Pat Sanderson --were not even chosen for Australia. Hodgson, Wilkinson's fly-half understudy, suffered a serious knee injury during last season's Six Nations Championship.

Woodward said: 'I have selected a very strong England XV squad to prepare for the game, and it is the most experienced of all the teams I've selected to face a Barbarians side. …

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