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Premiership Rugby

Clive Woodward update – After the quarter-final

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

AT: Ten hours on from the game, what is your view on how England played?

CW: Clearly we are happy we made the semi finals and we are flying to Sydney. But we were very unhappy with the way that we are playing. We are certainly not at our best at the moment, everyone is aware of that, all the team, every individual. But it is important that we don’t over react here and say the wrong comments to the media, we just have to put it right in-house and now is the time for us to be very, very strong. But we have just won a game and I am sure that there will be questions asked all week and behind closed doors we have got to get it sorted out. We only have a week to sort it out before we face France and we know France well and I think that the team are really looking forward to playing them. We have no doubt that England can win this game but we will have to improve dramatically on our performance last night and to do that we just need to keep a cool head and sort one or two things out. We have a few days to do it and we are looking forward to going to Sydney, and at the end of the day England are in the World Cup semi final and I believe that we can beat France on the weekend.

AT: In the first half everything went wrong and even our golden boy Jonny Wilkinson didn’t seem to know what was going on, I don’t know what you said to them at half time but when Mike Catt came on it seemed to change the whole aspect of the game, it seemed to become a lot better side?

CW: There was only Jonny kicking the ball in the first half and we needed to get another kicker on. Catt has been out of the team for two years but has been playing fantastically well, we are just not playing to our normal standards. Jonny was under a lot of pressure throughout the game, so it became clear to me that we needed someone to play along side him who was a genuine kicker, so we made the decision to move everyone out one, we took Luger off but and put Tindall on the wing and put Greenwood as outside centre. As far as a game plan there was nothing to be said, I just said to Catty just get on and play your game and he did it very, very well and took a lot of pressure off Wilkinson in the second half. The most pleasing aspect was that the penalty count was down to single figures and that won us the game in the end. We kept the penalty count down to nine and I think the Welsh conceded 17 and I think that in the end was what won us the game but now we have got to put that all behind us, not over react to it but take all the correct lessons into the French game. France have had a good World Cup so far and have played very, very well but they have not been pressurised like England will do at the weekend and they know that.

AT: We leaked three tries does that mean our defensive pattern is wrong?

CW: The defensive pattern is fine, it is tried and tested, it is wrong if we kick the ball to Shane Williams and he has lots of space with Ben Kay opposite him, we just weren’t playing very smartly but that comes down to concentration. I think that the team thought deep down that they would beat Wales but if we play like that again next weekend we will be on the plane home. I don’t think that we will play that way  and clearly there will be some interesting meetings this week behind closed doors and we will get it sorted out .We have got one chance, there is no hiding place here, that is the good thing about it, what’s done is done, but at the end of the day we have played five, won five. We have got to accept the criticism because the criticism is due, but it is about winning, and there is an outside chance that we will be going in with our strongest team at the weekend, which will be a big boost for everybody. We had a lot of disruption this week, I don’t think that was anything to do with how we played because we were just a little bit off the pace and we did look a bit slow compared to the Welsh team. We looked a little bit tired so we are going to have a quiet week this week in Manly. I am planning on just training once, we have just got to get everybody fresh and get England’s strongest fifteen playing at the weekend. If we do that I think it will be a good night on Sunday.

AT: You have plucked Austin Healey from the Zurich Premiership and he is coming out on standby. 

CW: What happened there is because we have injury problems with Balshaw and Lewsey and we won’t know the state of their fitness for couple of days. So I have spoken to Austin, I have spoken to Dean Richards and they are very happy for him to come out, so he is on his way. He won’t be joining the party but it is more than possible that he could arrive on Tuesday and fly back to Wednesday, if they are both fit, so he could be on his way on Wednesday and playing for Leicester on Saturday, that is the agreement that I have with Dean. But Austin has been playing well, I have had Joe Lydon monitoring all the players in England and he sees him as the right person to come in. If we need him great, if we don’t need him it will be great as well because it will mean that Balshaw and Lewsey are both fit and we did miss them at the weekend.

AT: We haven’t played well but we are still on course, presumably if we play well we will be in the final?

CW:  England getting stronger game by game and we played a lot of rugby over the years and won. We are playing some pretty average rugby at the moment and still winning, I think that it is sheer bloodymindedness and the will of the team that has seen us through. It is pretty frustrating for the team for the amount of work that they do, they are an outstanding group of players but they are just not playing well, it happens, it is not a perfect world. You cannot be a Rolls Royce every week and we are certainly not that at the moment so we have got to put it right and there is a good chance that we will have our strongest fifteen playing at the weekend which we have not had in the tournament yet. We know France very well, we played them once in August and once in September. It will be a great match up, I have no fears of the French and I have a lot of respect for them, and I believe that if we get this week right and we don’t over react and keep cool heads then we will beat them.



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