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Woodward hits back at maul moaners

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

"The rules are very clear and I think that if you speak to any international referee, and they are the only people who count, they really enjoy refereeing England and if you look at our penalty count it is extremely low," Woodward told zurichpremiership.com.

"England play our way, within the rules of the game and it is very, very effective and maybe we have just got one or two people worried."

The team has come under fire from some quarters about the binding of their ball-carrier during the maul situation.

This is one of England's favourite attacking moves and sees the forwards gather the ball into an offensive maul before moving it to the back of the group, usually to openside flanker Neil Back.

The rules state that the ball-carrier must remain bound to the maul but some of England detractors – most recently Australia coach Eddie Jones – think that England are not doing this, and have accused them of shielding.

Woodward hit back by stating that the ploy is used by all teams and claimed that there was no advantage in keeping the ball-carrier unbound: "We want the players to be attached as we want to score, and we don't want to get penalised.

"There is no reason why we would want the player to be detached, we just think that it has been blown out of all proportion.

"The most important person is the referee Peter Marshall, whom I met with yesterday, and he knows the laws inside out and he is very happy with what England do. He, like me, is taking it with a pinch of salt and a smile."

Woodward also stated that the late replacement of scrum-half Matt Dawson and flanker Richard Hill would not effect England's overall chances against South Africa on Saturday, saying only that it would "add a bit of spice to the whole thing".

"The team did quite a heavy fitness test on Friday morning and it became obvious that the pair were not quite right," said Woodward.

"We have a fully-fit Kyran Bracken and Lewis Moody ready to come in. It's part of the team rules, you just cannot go into these big games with anyone who is not 100 percent.

"We just move on, we have Gomarsall who will come onto the bench and Joe Worsley also comes on the bench. You have got to trust your squad and I trust all 30 players and I am very, very confident in all of their ability and would put any of them out against any of these international teams."

With the tide of England support rising ahead of this weekend's crucial match, Woodward revealed that he had received faxes that from the Queen, Tony Blair and Iain Duncan-Smith – and had also taken a message from a certain wandering royal.

"Prince Harry is here and he has been in contact and says that he is available for selection!" he joked.

"No, he is coming to the game and that is great. I am hoping that we get huge support tomorrow from the England supporters because it does make a difference.

"So it great to know that Prince Harry will be there and I hope he has his white shirt on!"


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