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Zurich exclusive – Clive Woodward Q and A

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Andrew Titheridge: Clive, team selection for Saturday looks slightly confused – you've got players who played on the summer tour and players who still have to prove themselves, players like Paul Grayson, Austin Healey, Ollie Smith and Iain Balshaw. Have they only got this one chance to prove themselves?

Clive Woodward: The most important thing is that I'm very clear about what I am doing. These three games have always been about preparing the team for the World Cup, getting the right 30 right, but we want to win the game and we won well last weekend. This is a tremendous match on Saturday night – no team has ever beaten France in Marseilles and France will be going in on full strength, so the fixture is perfect for England and it gives an opportunity for the guys who didn't play at the weekend to really stake their claim.

It's clear that 20 or so players have already booked their place for the World Cup. I'm not going to name them all – most of those guys that played over in Australia and New Zealand will be going, but I'm not sure about the rest of who will make up the 30. A few of them playing this weekend, names that you mentioned – Healey, Balshaw, Smith, Grayson – they are definitely not yet in the starting line-up so it's a huge game for them. We want to make sure that we can beat France and give these guys every chance of getting selected.

They've selected a very strong team and we've selected a very strong team. Our back row is the same as last week because there is a strong possibility I'll take five back row, and the three who aren't playing and started against Australia will all be going, so in principle we will be taking two from these three and we want to look at them together against France.

AT: Players like Josh Lewsey and Ben Cohen, surely they've already established their place in the squad?

CW: I'm not going to say they're 100 per cent but they are world class players and I'm sure they are going to be in the 30. A few guys got knocks last weekend and I want to put out a very strong team that gives the likes of Smith and Healey every opportunity to show what they can do, plus there were a couple of knocks at the weekend – I couldn't pick James Simpson-Daniel, Dan Luger and Stuart Abbott and they can't train until Friday so they've ruled themselves out of playing this game. I'm not going to sit and go through the whole medical bulletin about who can't play and so this week we're playing players like Cohen and Lewsey, so maybe at Twickenham they won't start.

We want to win the Test match and this is about October so you shouldn't get too carried away about selection, just more focus on the players. Steve Borthwick, for instance, is on the scene. We will take four locks – he's just seen Grewcock and Shaw play outstanding well at the weekend, and he gets his chance this weekend and you've got to put him in with a good side and it is a good side. They're the names the press have got to be concentrating on, but the press shouldn't get too carried away by who's playing and who's not playing. In terms of the more established players, that's purely based on us wanting to beat France and one or two injuries. And if we only went in with 12 men on the team sheet I don't think it would be too smart from our point of view.

AT: Now as an ex Leicester man Clive, are you aware that you've picked a Leicester front row for the first time? And of course there's Dorian West who's been a great servant of the game and has played for Zurich Premiership club Leicester for all his life, and you put him in as captain. Was there a reason for that?

CW: I was unaware I had selected the whole of the Leicester front row until they made it clear to me after the team selection. Julian White is going to Leicester and I'm delighted as it would be my choice of club for him to go to, with Darren Garforth stepping down from the club scene.

Leicester is a brilliant club year-in year-out. They were disappointed last year with their overall season because they're rebuilding and for White to go out there and work with all the Leicester players, and with Dean Richards and John Wells it's great for England. White, who is a World Class player, should improve dramatically now that he's gone to Leicester.

In terms of Dorian West, Leicester have got a great track record of producing outstanding captains from the days when I played when Peter Wheeler captained the team to the present day when Martin Johnson captains the side – he is certainly the best captain in the world.

Close behind him, Neil Back is an outstanding captain and West just fits in with the same type of character and I like the way they operate. Up at Leicester they just get on with it and I think that's key to Leicester's success. West has captained the England A team very successfully and with the rest of the team I think he's the obvious choice and everyone said yes he was definitely the right choice. Jason Leonard did a great job on Saturday and this will be a step up from what we had in Cardiff.


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