Worry over lack of England scrum-half cover at World Cup

Sports | REUTERS 14 Aug 2019

The decision to take only two specialist scrum-halves to the Rugby World Cup in Japan could come back to haunt England, former coach Clive Woodward says.

Coach Eddie Jones announced his 31-man squad for the tournament on Monday and included the experienced Ben Youngs and Test rookie Willi Heinz as his two options for the number nine jersey.

"This is a full metal jacket squad," Woodward, who led England to World Cup glory in 2003, wrote in the Daily Mail newspaper.

"Overall it looks a great squad but I have one major issue - the fact that England are only taking two scrum-halves.

"If either Ben Youngs or Willi Heinz - or both - pulls up on the Friday before a Saturday match, you do not have the time to fly someone out to Japan and replace them. At the World Cup, if a player is injured and replaced they cannot come back into the squad, so if someone picks up a slight hamstring pull they could be out for the tournament.

"You would then go into a big game without your specialist number nine on the field and with no proper back-up on the bench.

"No doubt Eddie sees George Ford as his back-up scrum-half, but it's a tough call for Ford to play 80 minutes at number nine against a heavyweight of world rugby."

The World Cup begins on September 20 and England start their Pool C campaign against Tonga in Sapporo two days later.

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