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England must up the ante, says Woodward

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Speaking to zurichpremiership.com ahead of England's Zurich World Champion Challenge match at Twickenham on Saturday, Woodward defended his decision to field a fresh looking side against the New Zealand Barbarians rather than the RWC winning XV as many had expected and, indeed, hoped for.

The world champions will begin a new era with 12 survivors of the Australia campaign in the starting line-up, including only five of the starting XV who took to Sydney's Telstra stadium field on the evening of November 22.

"I was never going to pick the World Cup team," said Woodward. "There is an awful lot of stuff in the media about this, luckily the media don't select the side, I do!  "This is an invitation side, it is England against the New Zealand Barbarians, and – for me – I wanted to prioritise the people who were in the World Cup squad and who hadn't been in the 22.  "I want to use the game to move the team forward. It could be a waste of a weekend not to do this, and I don't particularly like celebration matches. So for me to take James Simpson-Daniel, Ollie Smith, Charlie Hodgson, Andy Sheridan and Matt Stevens was a huge opportunity and I wasn't going to waste the game.  "The important thing for me is that all 31 players involved in the World Cup will be there at the final whistle and that is when we can celebrate the World Cup.

"I want to move this team forward and I want players who are really excited about playing this weekend rather than players thinking that this is a friendly game after the World Cup.

"We have just got to keep our feet firmly on the ground. This is what we do for a living, this is our career, these are our jobs. Enjoy the moment – it will soon pass – and we will be looking forward to Six Nations and test match rugby again."  Woodward's selection demonstrates his determination to move England onwards and upwards, and the coach is keen to begin constructing what he hopes will be a 'golden era" of English rugby as soon as humanly possible.

"We have really got to keep working," said the coach.

"People have got to understand why we won the World Cup – we didn't win it because of any individual player or groups of players, it is a whole team of people right down to the clubs which allowed us the opportunity of being successful.

"To see an Englishman lift the World Cup was fantastic, and now I want to see another Englishman lift it but it is going to be double the challenge because the rest of the world are not happy with England winning the World Cup!

"We have now got to up it again, and we will just come back in January and get back into our game-by-game mode and I am really looking forward to it."

By Andy Jackson


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