England in New Zealand 2014
Woodward slams tour 'cock-up'
ESPN Staff
May 27, 2014
Clive Woodward ... no fan of the 1998 Tour from Hell © Getty Images

Former England coach Sir Clive Woodward has labelled the forthcoming tour of New Zealand "the biggest cock-up since the 'Tour from Hell' in 1998".

On taking charge of the national team in 1997 Woodward inherited what he described as "a crazy itinerary put together by somebody who didn't put the England team first". He said this summer's trip was no better.

"Stuart Lancaster is having to leap through logistical hoops when this battle should have been fought - and won - a long time ago," Woodward wrote in his Daily Mail column. "Do not think for one minute this is just one of those things and won't happen again. The Premiership has started to flex its muscles, as we have seen in the recent European Cup negotiations."

He said the RFU should have been much tougher negotiators given the financial benefits an England tour will bring to New Zealand. "The All Blacks never come cheaply when they visit these shores and accept only the itinerary that suits them. And I don't blame them. Was enough effort really made to get New Zealand to put the Test schedule back by a week, which would have helped immensely? Were the England players consulted at all? How much was Lancaster consulted?

"To win [in New Zealand] you need everyone's noses pointing in the same direction and the Premiership and the RFU have let down this group of players."

Woodward also said the weakened side likely to play in the first Test - as a result of those in the Premiership final not being available - devalued the honour of playing for your country. "You dedicate large chunks of your career to win selection. You overcome injuries to fight for the jersey, earning the right to play against New Zealand at Eden Park. Then, suddenly, your place is handed on a plate to somebody else."

And if England were to defy the odds and win the first Test, then that would present different problems. "Lancaster would then have to decide whether to parachute in those five or six first-choice players who were unavailable. Do you stick with the team that won or introduce players champing at the bit to get their shirts back? That would be a great dilemma to face."

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