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Premiership Rugby

Clive Woodward as the RWC gets underway

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

AT: The starting line up is still the same for Sunday, no niggling injuries?

CW: No, Matt Dawson trained fully yesterday, Iain Balshaw is ok to train full on. As long as we get no injuries in tomorrows final team run, we will be as selected which I am delighted about. We have got all 30 players training which is very, very good news.

AT: The World Cup starts in earnest today, slight difference in point scoring this time, tell us about that.

CW: I think we are used to it, because it is the exactly the same as the Zurich Premiership. If you score 4 tries, you get a bonus point, and if you lose a game and lose by less than seven, you get a bonus point. We are quite used to it, whether it was needed I haven’t quite thought it through, in World Cups you can have fantastic games and lose ten nine, score one try and to me it maybe could be a bit simpler. But the system is there and we have to accept it. From England’s point of view, I don’t think that it makes any difference, you go into every game wanting to win it and that is your foremost thought and everything else is a bonus. And maybe you adjust your strategy during the game but I think from England’s point of view of the pool games, it’s about winning every game and it is as simple as that.

AT: In the Zurich Premiership it is quite interesting watching the games because you can see a side towards the end of game going for a bonus point because at the end of the season it could be more important. With much smaller pools in the World Cup will it probably be more insignificant in these pool matches?

CW: From England’s point of view it is, it is about winning those games because when you only have four games it’s really not going to make any difference. But it may have significance in other groups, certainly the group that starts tonight with Australia, Argentina and Ireland, that is a very, very, tight group. I don’t think we can expect big scores in any of those games, so it could be significant. From my point of view, which is England’s point of view, I haven’t really thought about it, we have to win every single game. If we are going to challenge this World Cup there is not a game in the pool matches that we won’t target to win, it is as simple as that. We will worry about the bonus points after that, you just want to win the game and move onto the next one, that’s our mindset. Whether it was needed I really don’t know, I think that there is going to be great attacking rugby this World Cup and it is about going out there and trying to close a game down. Especially over here, when it is going to be perfect conditions. So the systems there and I will really leave my judgement till afterwards. It could be a good thing, and throw up some really interesting situations at the end of the pool rounds, especially in the group that starts tonight.

AT: All the teams were together last night getting their World Cup caps, was everyone in good form, the Georgians, the Uruguayans, Samoans and South Africans?

CW: To be fair I don’t think that the English and South African players were particularly comfortable being there. But, I think looking at the broader picture, it was great to meet up with the Georgians, the Uruguayans and the Samoans, there was obviously a little bit of tension between the English team and the South African team. I shook hands with Corne Krige and Rudolf Straeuli, so you meet with them and have a few polite words and I think it is a good thing. It was probably good because you do get a lot of things blown out of all proportion, especially in the media going into these big games but the bottom line with all these opposition players and coaches is still that rugby has got that ethos that you want to beat each other hugely during the eighty minutes. But I have never met a coach or player in the environment like last night who doesn’t want to shake hands and have a chat. It was interesting meeting Straeuli and Krige but that is going to have no bearing on next week, it’s a huge game next week. But it did break the ice a little bit and it just proves that rugby does have this fundamental ethos which is excellent, despite the history between the two countries and long may that continue.


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