Friday, October 26, 2007

These three will rule the world

The last stragglers have only just spilled out of Eurostar trains, car ferries and airport terminals on English rugby's proud retreat from Paris.

But World Cup winner Will Greenwood can already envisage a long-haul invasion of New Zealand in four years with a crop of thrilling youngsters heading England's bid for a hat-trick of appearances in the final.

As Greenwood set sail for 2011 in the Maori Celeste last night, he tipped Toby Flood, Mathew Tait and Dan Hipkiss to form the nucleus of another formidable England challenge.

And he refused to rule out the possibility that Jonny Wilkinson's golden boot will still be kicking, reliably high and straight, like the can-can girls at the Moulin Rouge barely a drop goal from last weekend's drama at the Stade de France.
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Greenwood said: "It was an amazing World Cup, and there are some great signs already for 2011, but first of all I'm excited about the Six Nations and the Heineken Cup.

"Four years is a long way away, and there's so much good rugby for us to look forward to right now.

"But we do seem to have some thrilling young players coming through, and top of the list is Toby Flood, who I rate enormously. I think he has an absolutely tremendous future.

"It was great to see Mathew Tait doing what he does best in the final, too - taking advantage of broken field. We need to find a way to get him involved more. When the game is constricted, we don't see the best of him, but he's a real talent. Dan Hipkiss is another player who will figure prominently in the next few years, probably as the dark to Tait's light.

"He's strong and carries the ball well, but he found against South Africa that sometimes you need that bit extra. That will come with time." England's stirring transformation from no-hopers to finalists in France was built on the bravery of their pack and Wilkinson's partnership at halfback with surprise package Andy Gomarsall.

At 28, Golden Boots is by no means a shoein for New Zealand, but Greenwood said: "All we can hope for Jonny is that he has a few years of playing injury-free because he's had a dreadful few years. If that means he's still there in four years' time, all well and good.

"If not, there are plenty of good players waiting in the wings. And as for the scrum-half, well, Gomarsall was just unbelievable in the World Cup - probably, on balance, our player of the tournament.

"It will be interesting to see what he does now.

He was exactly what England needed - relaxed and composed. Harry Ellis will need to be bloody fantastic if he wants to get his place back for the Six Nations."

Asked for his abiding memories of the World Cup, Greenwood picked out Fiji beating Wales, Joe Worsley's tap tackle in the semi-final, and the image of Gomarsall - neck veins bulging - seconds after the final whistle against Australia.

It was a memorable six weeks, spoiled only by an Aussie touch judge who will win as many popularity contests in England as a Russian linesman in Germany.

The retreat from Paris was orderly and dignified. But if a stowaway prince needs to hitch a lift home on England's charter flight from New Zealand in 2011, he may have to travel economy class.

You can read the full interview in this week's Sport Magazine, the UK's largest men's magazine, by picking up a copy today or by logging on to

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