Sir Clive Woodward: Top Rugby World Cup teams ‘won’t be scared’ of England

Jared Wright
Sir Clive woodward and Engladn Rugby World Cup squad member including Owen Farrell, Ellis Genge and Courtney Lawes.

Sir Clive Woodward thinks that England's Rugby World Cup squad won't strike fear in opposition teams.

Sir Clive Woodward believes that top Rugby World Cup nations “won’t be scared” by the England squad Steve Borthwick has picked for the tournament.

The former Red Rose head coach says this will work in their favour as they navigate a Pool D which includes Argentina, Japan, Samoa and Chile.

Underdogs tag

Borthwick named his squad for the tournament on Monday, with Alex Dombrandt and Henry Slade the notable absentees from the group.

“The top teams going to the World Cup won’t be scared one bit by the England squad named by Steve Borthwick,” Woodward wrote in his column for Sports Mail.

“This could work in England’s favour. They will be underdogs in their must-win pool opener with Argentina. It is remarkable to say that about an England team, but it is true.”

Woodward added that Borthwick had the opportunity to excite England fans with his squad and deliver a positive message to the nation, but has instead opted for a confrontational team.

“Looking at the reaction to the squad on social media, the overriding verdict was underwhelming. I can sympathise with that view,” Woodward added.

“In terms of personnel, the make-up of the squad shows exactly what England fans can expect in France: a direct, physical approach.

“As I have consistently maintained, England will need to do far more than that if they are to trouble the likes of Ireland, France, South Africa and New Zealand.”

“Huge call”

Zoning in on Borthwick’s two big omission calls, Woodward added that the decision to axe Slade is a “huge call” that may come back to bite him.

Billy Vunipola is the only specialist at the back of the scrum, with Alex Dombrandt left out,” the 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning head coach wrote.

“The decision to axe Henry Slade is also a huge, huge call.”

He added: “Slade is an excellent player, but whether or not he is in the squad is not going to define England’s World Cup chances. His absence is a huge call though, because without him, Borthwick has named only three out-and-out midfielders.”

Woodward is worried that Slade’s absence means that Owen Farrell will be used in the centres during the tournament, with the former coach being of the opinion that Farrell is best suited for the fly-half role.

Not getting the fans’ hopes up

While he accepts that the squad is underwhelming for the public, Woodward said that Borthwick was also right not to say that England were going to win the World Cup – while also taking a shot at Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones.

“Borthwick would have looked stupid had he come out yesterday and said England were going to win the World Cup,” Woodward added.

“I’m not sure why Eddie Jones did that on the back of Australia’s fourth straight loss!

“Borthwick is right to focus on one game at a time, especially because the first World Cup pool match with Argentina is so crucial.”

England are back in action this weekend as they take on Wales at Twickenham.

Borthwick’s side suffered a 20-9 defeat to the same opposition in Cardiff last week and will look to bounce back two more fixtures ahead of the Pool D opener against Argentina on September 9.

READ MORE: England head coach Steve Borthwick on ‘very, very tight calls’, picking Joe Marchant over Henry Slade and Rugby World Cup belief