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Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK

Guscott fit to take place on bench

Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio warm-up at England's training camp in Surrey

Jeremy Guscott has passed a fitness test on his groin injury and will take his place among the replacements for England's World Cup opener with Italy.

The veteran Bath centre will start on the bench at Twickenham on Saturday, after being left out of the starting line-up by coach Clive Woodward.

Guscott says he is not concerned to be facing his first international on the bench for almost two years.

The talented midfield playmaker, who has won 62 caps and scored 28 Test tries, has not been named among the replacements since a game against Wales in 1997.

Woodward has said he will not even consider picking players who are not 100% fit and with Guscott nursing the slight injury, he lost his place to clubmate Phil de Glanville.

[ image: Guscott:
Guscott: "This is truly professional rugby"
His chances of regaining a place in the team for the big match with New Zealand next week are already diminishing - but Guscott says he is happy to fight for his position.

"There is competition for places all over the shop in this current England squad. It's also the fittest England squad that has ever taken the field physically," said Guscott.

"Training with the Lions in 1997 was heavy duty but it was only for a six-week period.

"Six weeks would have been an aperitif for us in the World Cup build-up.

Toughest test

"This is truly professional rugby. What we have been doing at our clubs has been thorough but I've never experienced anything as intense as our preparations for this tournament."

He will have to watch as first-choice pairing Will Greenwood and de Glanville take to the field.

"It is frustrating. I feel generally as fit as I've ever done so it is disappointing to get injured at this stage," he said.

"The down side is not being really able to compete for the place, but it is unfair on those who have put all the work in over the last month if I were to come straight back into contention."

Guscott is still hoping to prove his fitness in time to be considered in the starting XV against the All Blacks on October 9.

At 34, he is still one of the game's most supreme talents - but he knows this is his last chance to excel on the world's greatest stage.

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