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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 06:00 GMT
Woodward warns World Cup stars
By Caroline Cheese
At the BBC Sports Personality awards

England coach Clive Woodward
It doesn't matter who steps down or who is injured, it will be the same team without them
England coach Clive Woodward said he will not be guided by sentiment when selecting his squad for the first Six Nations match of 2004.

Some of the older members of the World Cup winning squad are expected to decide in the next two months whether to retire following England's momentous win in Sydney.

However, Woodward, who picked up the Coach of the Year gong at Sunday's BBC Sports Personality show, said they may not be guaranteed a place whatever decision they make.

"It doesn't matter who steps down or who is injured, it will be the same team without them," he told BBC Sport.

"I like to think that retiring on a foreign field in Sydney would be the last thing on their minds - but I've got to pick them, there will be no sentiment.

"If any of those players aren't the best players, regardless of World Cups or anything, they won't be selected.

"I think they will know very quickly once you're not there, you won't be missed for very long.

"The team will go on, we'll get someone else and we'll still win. That's the attitude."

However, Woodward added that he would like to see the World Cup winning players carry on until the end of the season.

"I'll leave it up to the players now and whatever they do they get my full support," he said.

"But think about it logically, they're fully fit to play in a World Cup final in November, they should be fully fit to play in February.

"So it doesn't seem to be the best decision to retire halfway through the season - I'd like them to carry on at least until the end of the Six Nations."

Woodward, who also coached the side to the Six Nations Grand Slam glory and an unbeaten tour down under, described the current period as a "golden age for English rugby".

"It's been a wonderful 12 months but I think it goes a bit longer than that," he said.

"We've had an outstanding three or four years but this year has been incredible and I'm a bit worried about 2004 and how we're going to better this."

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