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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April, 2005, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Woodward plays down England bias
Sir Clive Woodward
Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward played down the fact that 20 of the squad to tour New Zealand are from England, who struggled in the Six Nations.

"People should not read too much into the national make-up of the squad.

"If we were playing this weekend, the majority of the starting XV would come from Wales and Ireland, with two from England and one Scotland," he said.

He picked 11 Irishmen, 10 Welshmen and three Scots, adding the make-up was similar to that of the last two tours.

But he also chose 14 members of the squad which he guided to World Cup glory in 2003, including Lawrence Dallaglio and Neil Back, who have retired from international rugby.

Neil Back is there on merit - he has been there and done it and adds a huge amount of experience to the side
Sir Clive Woodward

Woodward defended the selection of veterans Back and Dallaglio.

"We've been following both players closely and Back's performance last weekend for Leicester against Leinster fully supported his selection," Woodward said.

"Playing in New Zealand you need a certain type of player, and in him and Martyn Williams we have got two of the toughest characters around.

"I didn't have to think long about Neil's inclusion. He is there on merit, he has been there and done it and adds a huge amount of experience to the side."

2005: 20 out of 44
2001: 19 out of 37
1997: 17 out of 34
1993: 16 out of 30
The huge England contingent also includes centre Will Greenwood, who makes his third successive Lions trip after recovering from shoulder surgery.

Full-back Iain Balshaw also makes it, despite an injury-plagued last 12 months.

"Being picked for the Lions is the ultimate honour, and a New Zealand tour is the ultimate challenge," Woodward added.

"The players we have announced are world-class, and the best in the British Isles and the right squad to take.

"We believe we can win. For all of us, it will be an achievement to match anything else we have done during our careers."

Statement: Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward

News conference: Woodward on nationalities in squad

Interview: All Blacks coach Graham Henry


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