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Premiership Rugby

Clive Woodward update – Time to perform

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

AT: The Aussies are at it again saying that there is panic in the England camp, that is not true is it?

CW: Well its not only the Aussies but all the media are putting question marks over England that we fully understand, we have not been playing at our best. We did not play that well against Wales and Wales played fantastically well but we are still winning and we are in the semi final of the World Cup. I actually think that it is the complete opposite within the squad, we have a couple of final fitness tests this morning and I believe that for the first time since we got here I believe that we could be picking from a full strength thirty man squad to play France. We all know France well and we respect France but we believe that we can beat them. There has been a lot written in the media this week and it seems that everyone is building up France to be favourites to win the World Cup now and England and Australia seem to be written off. You never plan these things but we are just sitting back quietly waiting for Sunday evening but I am very confident that England will beat France on Sunday night.

AT: One player that we have been without has been Richard Hill and I gather that he was training full on last night, has he come through it alright?

CW: Yes he is available for selection. I just have got to have a final test on Lewsey and Balshaw this morning and we will make a decision on whether Austin Healey stays or goes. Hill is definitely ok for the weekend, he is obviously short of match practice but he is one of the worlds best players. We should have a very strong bench but Richard Hill will definitely be taking part on Sunday in some shape or form and it will be the first time since Georgia. So there is a lot of good news and we are a very experienced group of coaches and players and even Jonny Wilkinson is getting stick in some quarters which I find absolutely amazing because to me he has been outstanding and England are winning. Sport is not always perfect but what I do know is that it is about whether you win or you lose not about the acres and acres of print that is going around the world at the moment. It makes for interesting reading but it doesn’t make any difference to how we prepare for this game.

AT: You are training at the stadium today, how important is it for the boys to get the feel, after all it is such an enormous stadium?

CW: Yes it is very important, it is not so much training on it, it is going down there, looking at the changing rooms and getting a complete perspective of the whole ground. It is very important for the goal kickers, it is very important for the line out throwers. It will just be a very light session on the pitch, we don’t normally train on the pitch because there is no security and obviously people can watch you. But tonight we are going to do some light defensive work out there. Then have a bigger run out than we normally do as we haven’t played there for two years and a lot of players have not seen the ground. We have a three hour slot which will be under lights tonight. We haven’t trained for a couple of days as there has been a lot of recovery work and relaxation going on but we are looking forward to going down there.

AT: The players last night who came to an interview session, Matt Dawson and Phil Vickery, were very positive and they believe that England have under performed but believe that things will change, do you believe that to be the case?

CW: Totally. It is very simple, this game is about winning or losing, we have got a huge game on Sunday – it is the semi final of the World Cup. Everybody is fully aware of what is going on and their responsibility and what we need to do to put it right. So we are just sitting back quietly and copping some flack which we take on our shoulders and everyone is aware that France are playing so well and clearly they are and we are not. So it is up to us to change that on Sunday night and everyone who lives in our part of the world knows that the England vs France games are huge occasions regardless of form going into these matches. England have not lost a test match since we lost to France over two years ago. So we know how to win, even when we are not at our best. I can promise everyone back home that England are looking forward to this game on Sunday night.

AT: And Dean Richards is expecting a call to say whether Austin Healey will be playing in the Zurich Premiership this weekend?

CW: It all depends on the fitness tests this morning, Austin is booked on a plane at 3pm this afternoon, so we have to make a call around lunchtime and Balshaw and Lewsey are having their final tests around this time. But it is a big decision, as I don’t want to go into this match without a really strong bench. We have made more changes than anybody else due to injuries and last weekend in the quarter final we ended up with Abbott and Catt on the bench which didn’t provide much cover for the back three. But we are just looking forward to the weekend and maybe we will stop talking about the Welsh game which was not England’s greatest performance but we won.



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