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Friday, May 29, 1998 Published at 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK

Sport: Rugby Union

Woodward 'embarrassed' by England's plight

England coach Clive Woodward is unhappy with state of the nation

England rugby coach Clive Woodward has admitted he is "embarrassed" by the depleted squad about to start the tour Down Under.

As the players arrived in Australia, Woodward said the upheavals in the English game and the withdrawal of many star names from the trip had left him in a sorry position.

Australian rugby chiefs Dick McGruther and John O'Neill have criticised England's RFU for allowing so many players to withdraw, despite being fit enough to play for their clubs. O'Neill has even threatened a review of future tours by the Home Nations.

And although Woodward was upbeat about his 37-man squad - including 20 uncapped players - when he left England, he was more forthright on his arrival in Australia.

"I'm as wild as he (O'Neill) is," said Woodward. "We've learnt a massive lesson out of this. I can't speak on behalf of the RFU but I'm pretty embarrassed about the situation.

"As the national coach you would like to think that for a Test match you would be picking players without worrying about major problems with the game in England.

"This is, I like to think, a culmination of circumstances and a one-off, I don't think it will happen again."

Players missing from the trip, through injury or family reasons, include former captain Lawrence Dallaglio, Jeremy Guscott, Martin Johnson and Neil Back.

New captain Matt Dawson remained optimistic despite a hostile reception from Australia's rugby authorities.

"The only thing they lack is experience and there's only one way to get that," said Dawson.

"I think people are going to see some intense, physical and skilful performances. There are some very talented individuals in this squad. They have a golden opportunity to show that ability, and we intend oozing the talent out of them.

"We've got the players with the ability to produce that little something special which could make all the difference."

But Dawson's comments are unlikely to convince the disgruntled McGruther, who has boasted England will get a "Pommie Bashing" in the Test on June 6. England go on to play two Tests against New Zealand and one against South Africa.

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