England’s World Cup prospects set to hinge on Moody’s fitness

Martin Johnson has named his 30-man World Cup squad. Tim Stimpson gives his assessment to Nick Westby.

Former England and Leeds Tykes full-back Tim Stimpson has expressed twin conerns about the lack of guile in Martin Johnson’s World Cup midfield and the level of Lewis Moody’s fitness.

Team manager Johnson yesterday named his 30-man squad for the World Cup, omitting ex-Leeds and Rotherham flanker Hendre Fourie and Halifax-born Charlie Hodgson.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Fourie’s absence paves the way for captain Moody to be afforded enough time to recover from a persistent knee injury that has restricted him to just five competitive games in 2011.

Stimpson, who played 19 times for England between 1996 and 2002 – including two appearances in the 1999 World Cup – believes managing Moody’s injury could be key to whether England have a successful campaign in New Zealand.

Johnson’s decision to leave Riki Flutey at home also has Stimpson concerned about the lack of creativity in the midfield.

Here, the Wakefield-educated back who brought the curtain down on a stellar playing career with an 18-month spell at Leeds from 2004 to 2006, assesses Johnson’s 30-man World Cup party.


Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“There’s no surprises here, it’s a front row that picks itself. It’s probably the strongest area of the squad.

“They’re all relatively young with the exception of Steve Thompson, and that’s pretty crucial.

“If England are to have a chance at this World Cup they have to dominate the set-piece.

“Matt Stevens didn’t waste any time while he was out of the game. He kept his fitness up and he’s come back and made himself a better player.”


Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Simon Shaw’s obviously the elder statesman. He’ll be the change-up player, the enforcer and it will be brutal every time he’s out there.

Courtney Lawes has developed at a great speed and he wins you a lot of ball.

“Tom Palmer is getting better down the years because he’s learning all the time.

“This is a second row that is executing 15 to 20 tackles a game and the biggest change in rugby union is how fit players are nowadays and how they are required to know all the skills.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“That second row must put pressure on opposition ball, both at the breakdown and in the lineout.”


“The question for England is when you’re up against Richie McCaw and the very best teams, have you got a back row that can compete and stay fit for a whole tournament?

“For me this is the weakest area of England’s forward pack because we don’t have much strength in depth.

“Can we create quick ball from our forwards to our backs? And that requires a good No 7. Will Moody stay fit enough, and if not, do England have the right combinations?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“They are all good enough players – they’re a just a little inexperienced.

“Hendre Fourie might still get a look-in with Lewis Moody lacking match fitness.”


“Danny Care is a big loss because Ben Youngs has been injured. Danny was a shoo-in to cover for Ben because he’s so physical and so quick, and you need that in what are going to be tight games in a World Cup.

“Joe Simpson has got ridiculous pace, which is a great threat. But a lot will depend on whether Ben Youngs is going to be the man.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I’m surprised Charlie Hodgson hasn’t been given the opportunity for his ability to play on the gain line.

“We know Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood are quality players. I think after the Wales games Jonny has probably got his nose in front.”


“It was a toss-up between Riki Flutey and Shontayne Hape. It’s a disappointment for Riki, but he’s not had enough opportunity at club or international level.

“For me I don’t think you can win the tournament with attrition, you need a balance of guile and physicality.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Manu Tuilagi has been playing well for Leicester and he proved against Wales that he can pick holes and exploit them.

“But I feel we need a little more in the ball-playing department, unless this selection suggests we are going to play a very physical, attritional game plan.

“From the guys Martin has picked it’s very much a physical presence, giving us the ability to bully opponents, with the forwards creating space for the backs.

“It will be the midfield’s role to steady the ship.”


“This is a great strength. The guys have been fantastic over the last 12 months.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“They’ve got the confidence to run from deep and it will be important to get these guys in the game.

“Chris Ashton runs some fantastic support lines and his absence in the game against Wales showed how much we missed him.

“Mark Cueto has been one of the outstanding performers of the last two to three years because of his ability to read the game. It’s a strong area for England.

“What these guys have shown, and Delon Armitage as well, is that they can catch a high ball and run it straight back at you.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“If we get chance to run from deep, that’s where England can hurt teams.

“Our most exciting rugby stems from these players.”


Front row

Dan Cole (Leicester); age 24; caps 17.

Alex Corbisiero (London Irish); age 22; caps 6.

Dylan Hartley (Northampton); age 25; caps 29.

Matt Stevens (Saracens); age 28; caps 34.

Steve Thompson (Wasps); age 33; caps 70.

David Wilson (Bath); Newcastle; age 26; caps 18.

Lee Mears (Bath); age 32; caps 38.

Andrew Sheridan (Sale); age 31; caps 40.

Second row

Louis Deacon (Leicester); age 30; caps 24.

Courtney Lawes (Northampton); age 22; caps 9.

Simon Shaw (Unattached); age 38; caps 67.

Tom Palmer (Stade Francais); age 32; caps 27.

Back row

Tom Croft (Leicester); age 25; caps 25.

Nick Easter (Harlequins); age 33; caps 44.

James Haskell (RB Rams); age 26; caps 36.

Lewis Moody (Bath); age 33; caps 67.

Tom Wood (Northampton); age 24; caps 7.


Toby Flood (Leicester); age 26; caps 41.

Joe Simpson (Wasps); age 23; caps 0.

Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens); age 28; caps 7.

Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon); age 32; caps 84.

Ben Youngs (Leicester); age 21; caps 12.


Matt Banahan (Bath); age 24; caps 13.

Shontayne Hape (London Irish); age 30; caps 12.

Mike Tindall (Gloucester); age 32; caps 71.

Manu Tuilagi (Leicester); age 20; caps 1.

Back three

Delon Armitage (London Irish); age 27; caps 21.

Chris Ashton (Northampton); age 24; caps 12.

Mark Cueto (Sale); age 31; caps 52.

Ben Foden (Northampton); age 26; caps 16.

Related topics: