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Premiership Rugby

Staking claims for places

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

AT: Seven changes to the side that played against South Africa but there is an enthusiasm about those players and they are not going to let England down at all are they?

CW: I think that this is a huge opportunity for these players, as I have always said this is the strongest 30 England have ever had when we came out here and this is the opportunity for all seven players to have every chance of establishing themselves when we pick for every weekend. The front row is very, very experienced, White, Regan, Leonard and they are pushing very hard the three guys who played last weekend.

It is a huge opportunity for Joe Worsley, this is one of the few times that he has started for England and he is an outstanding player and I am making sure that Dallaglio, Hill and Back fully understand that with Moody and Worsley there they have to be at their best. I have left those players out before and I will leave them out in this World Cup if I don’t think that they are playing as well as the other guy. In the backs it is a huge opportunity for Abbott, he just seems to fit beautifully between Wilkinson and Tindall, he certainly looks the part. Balshaw we all know about, he is a special player and he is competing very hard with Lewsey and Luger for that third position and also with Robinson and Cohen. It is not a case of letting England down, completely the opposite, they could be the better choices anyway so that’s what you want and just by announcing that team you can see that the competition within the group is huge and that is what you have to engender to do well at this World Cup.

AT: Mike Catt is coming in on the bench he hasn’t played international rugby for 2 years, can he get up to speed if he comes on?

CW: Definitely and I hope that he does come on, either at 10 or 12. You see players in training and that is the big thing, he has been out for a while, mainly through injury and there is no way that I could have picked him in the last two years, he certainly wasn’t up to speed. But he is in great physical shape now, he has had the whole summer off, and we are seeing the Mike Catt that I remember, not the Mike Catt that we have seen play at Bath for the last 12 months.

He is right there, he is very excited, he is delighted that he is going to be involved and he will definitely start next weekend even if he doesn’t get involved against Samoa this Sunday. He is a great player and we are very lucky to have him. And he can fit in both at 10 and 12 and he knows that he is not out here just to make the numbers up, and he wants to try and get in the test team.

AT: Jonny Willkinson was Zurich Player of the Match last weekend, will you be tempted to bring him off at half time if there are plenty of points on the board?

CW: No, not at all, Wilkinson is like a lot of these top players, they want to play and every time I take Wilkinson off he is not very happy with it, in the nicest possible way. He wants to play, he is like a lot of other players, he is at his best when he plays once a week and keeps the whole thing going. My mindset is that if Sunday goes the way that we hope it will go, is that he will then have a week off next weekend before the quarter finals. But we are very good at going game by game, Samoa is a huge game for us and we need to get this game right hence we have picked what I would regard as our strongest side.

AT: Three players that weren’t considered Greenwood, Grewcock and Hill will they all be back and fit next week?

CW: The news from England with regard to Will and Caro is good, which we are all delighted about and we are expecting to see Will next week. Grewcock will play against Uruguay and Hill has a slight hamstring injury. I didn’t want to mess around like we did before the South Africa game with people that are maybe, maybe not. I have been told by the medical team that he will definitely be fit for the Uruguay game.

So I am hoping that all of those three players will be available for selection next weekend. But we have just got to focus on Sunday’s game against the Samoans, it is a tremendously tough game and it is an awkward fixture for England after the game last week and we have spiced up the squad by making the changes that we have made for this game. We know we didn’t play very well with the ball in our hands though we played well defensively against South Africa. I think that you will see a drastically improved performance from England on Sunday night, I think that we have a lot of momentum going, there is a lot of people talking about us. It’s fantastic that all 19 teams are sending me reports about how they think England are playing! So, it’s a good situation and I am looking forward to Sunday and playing in the stadium with the roof shut because we have a very quick, fast team and we need a lot of improvement if we are going to be contenders for this World Cup.


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