Sir Clive Woodward’s England XV to face All Blacks, moving on from ‘unnecessary distraction’

Jared Wright
Tommy Freeman celebrates scoring a try for England and Sir Clive Woodard.

Sir Clive Woodward has picked the team he'd like to see tackle the All Blacks and Japan.

Former England head coach Sir Clive Woodward has picked the team he would like to see against Japan and the All Blacks this July.

The 2003 Rugby World Cup-winning boss drew similarities between England coaches Steve Borthwick and Gareth Southgate with their pragmatic approaches.

Ahead of the upcoming international match against Japan and the two Tests against the All Blacks in New Zealand, Woodward has weighed in on who he would select for England.

Ollie Lawrence snubbed

Woodward proposes a new-look midfield combination during the internationals, favouring the playmaking prowess of Henry Slade in the number 12 jersey and Premiership-winning star Tommy Freeman partnering him.

The ex-head coach believes that held England back in the past, dubbing the powerful midfielder as an “unnecessary distraction”.

“With Manu Tuilagi now unavailable, it is an opportunity to move on from a period that, bar a few standout performances, has not delivered as it promised,” Woodward wrote in his Daily Mail column.

“With the talent England have, it is essential the midfield starts working. Henry Slade still has a big role to play. I’d have Marcus Smith at fly-half with a centre pairing of Slade and Freeman.”

Woodward has been impressed by Freeman, hailing the Northampton star as “special” and comparing him to Ben Cohen, “who had a brilliant combination of power and timing.”

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Justifying Lawrence’s omission, he wrote: “He has been fantastic, offers a physical presence and will undoubtedly be in the midfield conversation. But playing Slade at 12 offers a second kicking option to Marcus Smith and provides plenty of experience.”

The 68-year-old added that he has been “heartened” by England’s progress in attack as they move away from Eddie Jones’ tactics.

“At the end of the Six Nations we saw the team ditch the kick-fest approach that tarnished the end of the Eddie Jones era. Against Ireland and France, England attacked with the pace and intensity everyone wants to see. It seems Borthwick wants to continue on that path,” he added.

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In the pack, Woodward has backed the experienced props in Joe Marler and Dan Cole with Jamie George skippering the team from hooker. In the second row, he has selected Maro Itoje and George Martin with Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Ben Earl in the back-row.

Alex Mitchell partners Marcus Smith in the halfbacks with Ollie Sleightholme, Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and George Furbank in the back three.


According to Woodward, facing the All Blacks in New Zealand is the “toughest place you can play,” but he believes that they can match the hosts.

Sir Clive Woodward’s England XV v All Blacks and Japan

15 George Furbank, 14 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, 13 Tommy Freeman, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Ben Earl, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Tom Curry, 5 George Martin, 4 Mario Itoje, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Jamie George (c), 1 Joe Marler

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