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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
Woodward eyes World Cup options
England coach Clive Woodward
Woodward must discard 13 players
It is only four short weeks since England returned from their triumphant tour of the southern hemisphere.

But 83 days before their opening World Cup match against Georgia in Perth, the countdown to their return to Australia has already begun.

On Monday, Clive Woodward reassembled a 43-man squad at the Pennyhill Park Hotel in Bagshot, which will be their second home for most of the next seven weeks.

Key dates on road to Perth
23 Aug: Test v Wales (Cardiff)
30 Aug: Test v France (Ma'slle)
6 Sep: Test v France (Tw'ham)
8 Sep: WC squad announced
1 Oct: Squad depart for Aus

Here, we outline the decisions facing Woodward and his coaching team over the next two months as he whittles down the World Cup wannabes to that final 30-man party.

By Bryn Palmer

BACK THREE

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

Lewsey nailed down the full-back spot Down Under and Robinson and Cohen are the established wings.

Iain Balshaw in action for England A against Japan
Balshaw has to cement his place
Luger hardly set the world alight last season but he remains a class act and Woodward remains a big fan.

He will be hoping Balshaw rediscovers something approaching his 2001 form to provide a versatile option at 15 or wing.

Simpson-Daniel should also make the cut, although could lose out to Austin Healey if the versatile operator recovers fitness.


CENTRES

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

Tindall and Greenwood are the established pair, although the other midfield places, probably two, are wide open.

Smith was the form horse until injury disrupted his season, while Noon and Abbott impressed on the summer tour.

Woodward has left open the possibility of a player outside the squad making it, meaning Catt, who could also provide a third option at stand-off, remains a long-odds outsider.


HALF-BACKS

Certainties: Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Dawson, Kyran Bracken
Possibles: Alex King, Paul Grayson, Dave Walder, Andy Gomarsall, Austin Healey
Reserve: Martyn Wood

Austin Healey takes on the South Africa defence last autumn
Healey provides options if fit
Does Woodward gamble and take just one back-up to Jonny Wilkinson, with Healey - if fit - or Greenwood as alternative stand-off options?

If so, then either Alex King or Paul Grayson could miss out, with Charlie Hodgson unlikely to recover from injury in time.

If he takes three specialists, the inexperienced but more versatile Dave Walder may prove a better bet for his ability to also play at full-back.

Woodward has the same dilemma at scrum-half, where Andy Gomarsall may miss out if Healey is considered as a third No 9.


FRONT ROW

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

Mark Regan appears to have moved ahead of Dorian West in the back-up for first-choice hooker Steve Thompson, with Sale's Andy Titterell a possible surprise inclusion if Woodward opts for three specialists, as seems likely.

If so, his options elsewhere will be reduced, where a fifth prop will be a consideration, and Graham Rowntree will be sweating on his place.

Leonard's ability to play on either side should secure him a fourth World Cup, with Vickery and White the tight-heads.


SECOND ROW

Certainties: Martin Johnson, Ben Kay, Danny Grewcock
Possibles: Steve Borthwick, Simon Shaw
Reserve: Alex Brown

Martin Corry carries the ball for England against the Barbarians
Corry's versatility could be crucial
Another area which could hinge on whether back-row man Martin Corry is also considered as a potential fifth lock.

If so, this could free up an extra front or back row spot, with Borthwick and Shaw vying for the final place.

Danny Grewcock, despite missing the summer tour, remains in the frontline mix.


BACK ROW

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

Providing Moody is back to full fitnes and form, he will provide a threat to the established trio of Hill, Back and Dallaglio.

Worsley's form also makes him the ideal bench man, leaving Woodward to decide whether he needs an extra openside.

If so, Hazell and Sanderson will contest the final berth.


SEE ALSO
England name large squad
09 Jul 03  |  Internationals
World Cup schedule
28 Apr 03  |  Internationals


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