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Last Updated: Friday, 3 September, 2004, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Clubs return Woodward blast
By Mark Orlovac

Wasps owner Chris Wright
Rugby is not just about the England team
Wasps owner Chris Wright
Wasps owner Chris Wright has forcefully defended the Premiership clubs in the wake of stinging criticism from former England coach Sir Clive Woodward.

Woodward stood down from the job this week following a massive row over international player release.

But Wright told BBC Sport: "It is ridiculous for people to keep having a pop at us. I am utterly fed up with it.

"Club owners are the ones that have invested their resources in rugby. We have put the show on the road."

Woodward was angry at the amount of access he was given to his players following England's World Cup triumph last November.

At a dramatic farewell news conference, Woodward did not hold back in his criticism of both the Rugby Football Union and the Premiership clubs on the issue of his access to England players.

But Wright has hit back, saying the clubs have given Woodward all the access he needs.

"Clive has had as much player release as he would expect to have. He has more than the England football team," said Wright.

"We feel that the balance is right. The player release is adequate for a national team that plays a few games in the autumn, spring and in the summer.

"In a normal structured season, including the autumn internationals, it is perfectly manageable. Last year was a one-off.

"Rugby is not just about the England team. In the Heineken Cup, 50,000 people saw Munster play Wasps in what is regarded as one of the greatest rugby games of all time.

"When England are playing, over 70,000 people go to Twickenham but a similar number of people go to see the clubs.

Sir Clive Woodward
Control of players is everything - you can't control players through 12 directors of rugby, half of whom aren't English
Sir Clive Woodward

"When Wasps are playing Gloucester, or Northampton are playing Leicester, those games are just as important as England. "

Wright also believes that there are other reasons behind Woodward's departure.

"There is more to this than meets the eye," he said.

"After the World Cup, Clive came out and publicly thanked the clubs for providing the foundations. It can't be right a year ago but wrong now.

"Players in England are playing in the best league in the world. The French league has gone up to 16 clubs and has already started but there is no whinging from over there."

Wasps' international players had an arduous schedule last season as they completed a Premiership and Heineken Cup double as well as playing for their country.

Club captain Lawrence Dallaglio was a major part of Wasps' success and quit Test rugby this week after returning from England's dismal tour Down Under where they suffered heavy defeats against New Zealand and Australia.

"It is the third time England have gone Down Under in the last 12 months," said Wright.

"The players needed a little bit of rest, they were on a hiding to nothing.

"They should not have gone on tour. It was wrong and we saw the effects on the pitch."

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