Steele influence put me on course - Cohen
February 2, 2000

New England cap Ben Cohen today saluted the man who put him on a fast-track to Test match recognition bobsleigh international Ron Steel.

The Northampton wing, together with Bath centre and fellow 21-year-old Mike Tindall, will make his England debut in Saturday's Six Nations Championship opener against Ireland at Twickenham.

He admits his career has taken off since Steel came on the scene as a personal fitness trainer.

"I've been working with Ron since November, one hour every afternoon, four days each week," said Cohen, nephew of England 1966 World Cup-winner George.

"The emphasis has been on track work, and I am now playing my best rugby as a result. Ron was in the England bobsleigh squad but he also did athletics at a high level.

"My uncle George was very quick over 100 yards, and my dad Peter was no slouch either and it's an area I have worked hard on for quite a bit."

Cohen and his England team-mates will start training this morning at Sandhurst Military College.

Both Cohen and Tindall are rewarded for outstanding Premiership form this season, while another gifted prospect Bath utility back Iain Balshaw is among England coach Clive Woodward's seven ubstitutes.

Yorkshireman Tindall has the unenviable ask of replacing midfield superstar and Bath colleague Jeremy Guscott, newly etired from the Test scene after a memorable 65-cap odyssey, with Cohen taking over from England's injured World Cup top try-scorer Dan Luger.

Both promotions were signposted long in advance. But Balshaw almost joined them, pressing claims as a viable alternative to right-wing Austin Healey.

Elsewhere, the versatile Mike Catt will
complete an all-Bath midfield, winning a 40th cap in his fourth different England position, with Garath Archer and Simon Shaw forging a colossal
second-row unit.

Archer, 6ft 6in, and 6ft 9in Shaw
combined weight of almost 38 stone pack down in an enforced move by Woodward
because World Cup locks Martin Johnson
and Danny Grewcock are both sidelined
through injury.

"'ve picked players who are on form for
their clubs," added Woodward.

"Tindall and Cohen are the two form
players in their positions, and they deserve this chance. Both guys are
there on merit.

"Balshaw came very close to a starting
position. He is an exciting young player, but what probably went against
him is that we already had two other uncapped players among the backs."

There are eight starting line-up
survivors from England's last match the demoralising World Cup quarter-final
defeat by South Africa last October a contingent that includes 77-times
capped prop Jason Leonard, who will
start his tenth championship.

Woodward felt that neither centre Will
Greenwood who lines up in Friday night's A international between England
and Ireland nor lock Tim Rodber were match sharp enough, while Healey needed
much more fly-half experience, his current club position, before he could
challenge England pivot Jonny Wilkinson.

Scrum-half Matt Dawson will captain his
country for the first time on home soil, having proved an admirable leader
during England's ill-conceived 1998 southern hemisphere tour, and is
relishing Saturday's clash.

"t cannot come quick enough as far as I
am concerned,"he said.

"I want to win some games as captain of
England, and we are a completely different team from 1998 we're a couple
of steps beyond that.

"With Keith Wood captaining Ireland, we
must expect the unexpected. Like ours, Ireland's last World Cup performance
was not up to scratch, but England never under-estimate any team,
especially the Irish."

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