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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 September, 2003, 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK
Who will make England's World Cup squad?
By Bryn Palmer

England coach Clive Woodward
Key dates on road to Perth
6 Sep: Test v France (Tw'ham)
8 Sep: WC squad announced
1 Oct: Squad depart for Aus
Eight gone, five more to go. The final cut is likely to be the deepest for the England World Cup hopefuls who miss out on a place on the plane to Australia.

After victory over Wales in Cardiff and a single-point defeat to France in Marseille, Saturday's final warm-up Test against France at Twickenham is the last chance to impress before the 30-man squad is finalised.

Clive Woodward has already sent eight of the 43 players he assembled in Bagshot back to their clubs, and must dispense with five more before naming his party on Monday, 8 September.

Here, we outline the final decisions facing Woodward and his coaching team as he whittles down the World Cup wannabes.


BACK THREE

Certainties: Josh Lewsey, Jason Robinson, Ben Cohen
Possibles: Dan Luger, Iain Balshaw, James Simpson-Daniel
Omitted: Dan Scarbrough

With Lewsey, Robinson and Cohen stone-cold certainties - despite Lewsey not making the starting line-up on Saturday - this area remains a conundrum.

Iain Balshaw in action for England A against Japan
Balshaw is sweating on his place
Luger is a proven finisher but his withdrawal through injury from the side to face France could prove costly.

Along with Simpson-Daniel, who is also carrying a knock, and Balshaw, he may be contesting just one place, depending on the balance of the backline options.

Balshaw, who struggled to make an impression in Marseille before suffering an ankle injury, has a last chance to show he can still strut his stuff on the big stage.


CENTRES

Certainties: Will Greenwood, Mike Tindall
Possibles: Ollie Smith, Stuart Abbott, (Mike Catt)
Omitted: Jamie Noon

Tindall and Greenwood are the established pair, but there remains some doubt as to whether one or two back-up places are up for grabs.

With Noon a casualty of this week's eight-man cull, Abbott and Smith are left sweating on their places.

Smith was the form horse until injury disrupted his season, but a promising display in tricky conditions in Marseille has put him back in contention.

Abbott capped his debut with a try in Cardiff, and an incisive display at Twickenham could seal his spot.

Catt - the only player outside the squad in with a chance - was called in for fitness tests and medical checks this week, and may be one of those put on World Cup standby.


HALF-BACKS

Certainties: Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Dawson, Kyran Bracken
Possibles: Paul Grayson, Andy Gomarsall, Austin Healey
Omitted/Injured: Dave Walder, Alex King

Austin Healey takes on the South Africa defence last autumn
Healey's versatility could be key
It appears likely that Woodward will take just one back-up to Jonny Wilkinson, with Healey - if selected - or Greenwood as alternative stand-off options.

Alex King's unfortunate knee injury, following the omission of Walder, has left Grayson in the box seat after a solid kicking display in Marseille.

One of Woodward's biggest dilemmas is at scrum-half, where Gomarsall, who has impressed in recent outings, may miss out if Healey's versatility proves a more attractive option.


FRONT ROW

Certainties: Steve Thompson, Trevor Woodman, Phil Vickery
Possibles: Dorian West, Mark Regan, Julian White, Jason Leonard, Graham Rowntree
Omitted: Andy Titterell, Will Green

Regan put down a marker for the back-up slot to first-choice hooker Thompson against Wales, while West's experience may outweigh his part in a poor line-out show in Marseille.

Any of them could be pressed into action as an emergency prop if Woodward decides to take only four specialists, which could leave Rowntree sweating on his place, although five seems more likely.

The versatility of Leonard, who earned Woodward's praise for a captain's show against Wales, ought to secure him a fourth World Cup, with White the second tight-head.


SECOND ROW

Certainties: Martin Johnson, Ben Kay, Danny Grewcock
Possibles: Simon Shaw, (Martin Corry)
Omitted: Steve Borthwick

Martin Corry carries the ball for England against the Barbarians
Corry provides a range of options
This area could hinge on whether back-row man Corry is also considered as a fourth lock.

If so, this could free up an extra front or back row spot, with Shaw vying for the final locking role after Borthwick's omission following the line-out travails in Marseille.

Shaw was in rampaging form in Cardiff alongside Grewcock who, despite missing the summer tour, remains in the frontline mix.


BACK ROW

Certainties: Richard Hill, Lawrence Dallaglio, Neil Back, Lewis Moody, Joe Worsley
Possibles: Martin Corry
Omitted: Andy Hazell, Alex Sanderson

Moody began his comeback with a solid display against Wales, and with another game under his belt against France will provide a real threat to the Hill-Back-Dallaglio triumvirate.

Worsley's form, confirmed in Cardiff, makes him the ideal bench man, while Corry would be unlucky to miss out after two powerful displays.

Sanderson, who endured a torrid time at number eight in Marseille, and Hazell both missed out as expected.


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