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Tuesday, October 26, 1999 Published at 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK

Knives out for Woodward

Clive Woodward (right) watches from the stands as England crash out

The pressure is building on England coach Clive Woodward, following his side's exit from the Rugby World Cup.

Woodward had always said his aim was to turn England into world champions, but the defeat by South Africa in Paris on Sunday ended his dream.

A number of his defeated players have rallied around the coach and he has been given a vote of confidence from his superiors, but the pressure is building on him from other sources.

His predecessor as England boss, Jack Rowell, has suggested Woodward should shoulder the blame for the team's failure, hinting at tactical limitations on his part.

Rowell said: "We have a good group of players. I feel sorry for them because they have worked so hard and were itching to play. But it comes back to tactics.

[ image: Jack Rowell: Led England to the semi-finals of the 1995 World Cup]
Jack Rowell: Led England to the semi-finals of the 1995 World Cup
"It is all about management. That doesn't mean running up and down a touchline - it means strategy.

"Wales gave it their best shot on Saturday, playing a structured game to their strengths.

"Scotland were up against it with New Zealand because they were out-powered, but they played a tactical game which worked for them and maximised what talent they had.

"I didn't see that from England. If we had the best forwards in the world why didn't we use them? If we had a game-breaker like Dan Luger, why wasn't he brought into the match more?

"You can play the recycling game until the cows come home," he told The Express.

"We had some success against the northern hemisphere countries with it, but things are different against a wall of southern hemisphere defences."

Bosses' backing

Woodward, who wants to lead the team into this season's Six Nations, has been given a vote of confidence from senior figures within the Rugby Football Union.

Fran Cotton, chairman of Club England, the RFU sub-committee responsible for overseeing the national team, said: "It would be a massive blow if Clive Woodward doesn't continue.

"I would be devastated if he doesn't want to be involved on a long-term basis. He has done a superb job, despite having to cope with all sorts of chaos in the domestic game.

"I am hoping and praying that he stays in the England structure at the highest level because we don't have enough people of such quality.

"England will be desperate for him to continue," he told the Daily Mail.

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