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Premiership Rugby

Zurich exclusive – interview with Clive Woodward

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Andrew Titheridge: The squad were out training at 07.30 this morning, isn't that a bit harsh?

Clive Woodward: It wasn't all of the squad but yes it is a bit hard on the coaches, particularly because we're running two separate squads now – the Test match squad for Saturday and all those not involved.

Actually I've just counted out that there are three training sessions today – three for the Test team and three for the rest. They're all doing different things but we still have the priority on conditioning – it's a key time of the year conditioning-wise for being right for October. So those playing against Wales have to do all of their conditioning work as well as preparing for Wales on Saturday but that is how it has to be.

AT: How difficult is it to coach a side that obviously have not all played together, unlike the full squad that played over the summer in Aus and NZ?

CW: They've not actually played together as a starting XV but even the two new caps, Dan Scarbrough and Stuart Abbott, have spent a tremendous amount of time with us over the last two years. We do coach in a certain way and they all fit into that way of operating.

There are a lot of combinations that have been together, as an example, against the Maoris in the summer the two centres and the two wingers all played together. The combinations are there, Abbott and King play a lot together for their club. Although it's not quite as gelled as the team you saw in the summer, I'm expecting them to really hit first gear very, very quickly come the weekend.

AT: The squad that's playing on Saturday is quite a young squad, except for the captain who seems to be going forever. Jason Leonard, surely he's booked his place as he goes for a world record number of caps?

CW: No he hasn't booked his place. They're all in competitive positions and I haven't decided yet whether to take 4 or 5 props. Woodman had an outstanding tour, Rowntree had an outstanding trip as well, and then there's Jason and I must say that looking at the condition of Jason I've never seen him in better shape.

He's doing everything he possibly can to make sure he gets the nod and I'm delighted that he's captain at the weekend. He's done a great job already and has a lot of experience and he's got that lovely word 'respect' and it's an important ingredient for any captain. So he's got a big game, its fine to captain the team, but this weekend Jason Leonard has got to play very well in order to put pressure on the other props who are also very keen to go.

AT: There's going to be a tremendous atmosphere at Cardiff, probably more so than normal as they've been selling tickets at Tesco. That's good preparation for Australia. There was a lot of stick given by the All Blacks and by Australians when we were down there in the summer.

CW: Yes England are not the most popular international rugby team around, we know that's the case, and certainly Clive Woodward is not going to change it and the team's not going to change it, but we go about things our own way and for whatever reason, England is the team they all want to beat.

AT: Wales will be playing a different England XV from the one they played in the Six Nations. It's a huge opportunity for them.

CW: Wales are on a losing run at the moment, they've lost 10 games in a row so it's a big opportunity for them but it's a massive opportunity for our guys as well. We want to keep our winning momentum going, but you know, we've just got to take all the positive feedback you get from a lot of fans on the chin and enjoy the experience. The game is all about the players at the weekend, not the crowd.

AT: Thirteen players at the end of this will go back to their Zurich Premiership clubs. Do you have any idea now who those 13 players are or do you have an open mind?

CW: My mind is very open. Clearly, of the 40-odd players that we've got, there's a lot of them that will definitely be on the plane. We've just got to hope that by September 8 we pick up no injuries in the training camp or in the games. De Villers, the French prop, fell off his mountain bike and is missing the World Cup for them so things can happen and all your best laid plans can still go out the window. Clearly you've got in the back of your mind who you think should go but I'm determined that I'm going to go with the form players.

I've no doubt I'll be using all 30 players in the World Cup and that's what these three games are all about. Starting on Saturday we want to win this game which is our number one priority and why we're training so hard for it.


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