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Zurich exclusive – Clive Woodward Q and A

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Andrew Titheridge: Clive, this side to play Wales looks like very much a second side. Is that your view?

Clive Woodward: It's not my view. I can understand one or two people saying that fifteen players starting that didn't start in our last match against Australia, which England won, but if you go through the players individually, there are lot of players coming back from injuries and suspension and players that are pushing very, very hard for first team places.

If you just go through the pack alone, Julian White, Jason Leonard, Grewcock, Shaw for various reasons were not available for the game against Australia. Lewis Moody coming back, he kept out Back and Dallaglio last Autumn and so he is back, and Worsley and Corry. Just eight different players in the pack that we started against Australia, so I wouldn't say it was a second team, no.

AT: Caps will be awarded and there will be two new caps in this side.

CW: I think it is important that caps are awarded – it's a full-on international. Obviously the key purpose is to win the game and that is obviously very important to England. But it is also equally important for me to make sure that I get it right when I pick the final 30 on September 8th. So there are two new caps in Stuart Abbott and Dan Scarbrough – very, very exciting players who are pushing very hard the guys currently seen as first choice.

Both Luger and Simpson-Daniel were our first choice wingers only a few months ago so its very competitive and I am looking forward to the game. And there is a lot of pressure on the team, in fact more than ever, because they are all trying to get into this final 30 and it will be good to see people like Alex King getting a start. It's a big game for England and nobody here is calling it a second team, particularly not the team itself.

AT: Steve Hansen, the Welsh Coach, says he is putting out his best side, this side is going to be hard pushed to win this game in the Millennium Stadium.

CW: No, this is a great game, a very good fixture for England. Wales have a very good side, I just don't think that the results have gone their way recently. Man to man they are very, very good, and Wales probably gave us one of our hardest games during our Grand Slam season.

The game down in Cardiff is one of the hardest and that's what we want, we didn't want any easy fixtures, we are playing Wales and France and that's exactly what we are trying to do here. It would be a pointless exercise if we played someone's second team. And with this team we will find all right things come the weekend. We have done a lot of training and it is just nice to arrive here on a Monday and know we have a game at the end of it that makes me far happier.

AT: Players like Iain Balshaw and Austin Healey, they haven't appeared as yet. Presumably they will play in one of these three matches?

CW: Oh definitely, yes. If they have got any chance of going to the World Cup they will either be playing this weekend or next weekend. Clearly, those that have not been pencilled-in will play against France next weekend. You can play only 15 but I am clearly expecting to see Healey, Balshaw and the others starting against France the week afterwards.

AT: Clive, all these games are vital but in the final analysis, 13 players are going to have to go back to their Zurich Premiership clubs and won't get the chance to tour. That must make the next three weeks incredibly competitive?

CW: Well, training has been very competitive and it's really working out well, but thirteen will go back and it will be very tough on those players but that's how it has to be, so those players have been part of all this.

During the World Cup players get injured and you have to fly replacements out, so having had a month with them it will make a big, big difference. Anyone who doesn't make the final cut will obviously be disappointed, but no more than that because they know that they may come out later and history shows that the players that have come out have made a huge impact.

AT: And England want to win all these games as there is a record in sight.

CW: I am not worried about records, I just want to win the next match and it's England v Wales and I am very excited about it. I wouldn't have been so excited if we had gone down with the exactly same 15 that we had played against Australia, but to go down with this team when there is a lot at stake, we want to win the game and there is a lot at stake for the team as individuals.

It's a huge game for England and these 15 players and we will prepare as thoroughly as we can this week, given that we are also doing a lot of conditioning work. So it's a big ask but I am sure we are up to it.


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