England keen to play down the hype
February 16, 2000
With a few days to go until the Paris showdown between England anf France, England coach Clive Woodward is doing his best to play down the hype.
In interview after interview yesterday Woodward and his players claimed they were treating the tie as just another game in their attempt to claim the first Six Nations crown.
Lawrence Dallaglio summed up the mood of the team when he said, "It(Saturday's match) is two teams that are playing on top of their game, two confident teams. It's a big, big game but it's only one game in a Championship. We found out last year that the Championship goes down to the wire.
Despite Dallaglio's caution, however, the celtic trio of Scotland, Wales and Ireland all have their work cut out to feature in the title equation this year after losing their opening matches 10 days ago. And Italy would cause more than astir if they wwere to claim the title.
England coach Clive Woodward on Tuesday named an unchanged team for the France match. There had been a couple of minor worries over fly-half Jonny Wilkinson and number eight Neil Back but Woodward paid tribute to Wilkinson's club boss at Newcastle - the former England international Rob Andrew - who rested Wilkinson at the weekend with the France match in mind after talking to Woodward by phone.
"He (Andrew) asked me if I wanted him to leave him (Wilkinson) out and it wasn't a long conversation," said Woodward. "He (Wilkinson) had a slight tweak on the groin, it was a good call from Rob. It was good to see a manager putting England first."
Despite playing down the hype, Woodward was keen to pay tribute to his hosts, who are beginning a new era under new coach Bernard Laporte after reaching the World Cup final last year.
"France have improved since the World Cup," Woodward said. "Despite their brilliant win against the All Blacks in the World Cup semi-final that was a one off looking at their previous form.
"But to go to Wales and do what they did there, to not concede a try (in a 36-3 win) was a very impressive effort.
Woodward played down any impact the injury to Christophe Lamaison might have on the Stade de France showdown and said, "Penaud is a world class player so it's not a question of heart.
"Obviously we also feel sorry for a class player (Lamaison) who misses out on an important game like this. But sometimes a player can come into a match when something like this happens and make a name for himself."
Both Woodward and his captain Matt Dawson were keen to maintain the momentum generated in the win over Ireland that so pleased the Twickenham crowd, although they were equally eager to avoid any sense of overconfidence.