Rugby Union

Tom Wood: Everything up for grabs

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England flanker Tom Wood believes Saturday's clash with France at Twickenham could make or break the World Cup dreams of those involved.

Wood is at the helm for the first of three warm-up games leading into England 2015 knowing the performance may decide who is picked for the last few available spaces in Stuart Lancaster 31-man squad.

Uncapped trio Sam Burgess, Henry Slade and Calum Clarke are hoping to catch the eye, while George Kruis and Kieran Brookes are other starters who are on the fringes of selection.


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"France is a massive game in its own right and we will be treating it like a full-blooded Test match, but there will also be World Cup places up for grabs, everything on the line," Wood said.

"For some people, it is effectively a final - if you don't play well, you're going home. That is the reality of it, so it will be full on."

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No player will be under the microscope like Burgess, who is making his England debut 10 months after switching codes from rugby league.

The 26-year-old's suitability for inside centre - the position he has been assigned by Lancaster even though he produced his best rugby at blindside flanker for Bath last season - remains in doubt, and Wood knows judgement awaits on Saturday.

"It is time to see it," Wood said. "There is no question of his pedigree, his temperament or his composure. Instead, it is are his instincts up to scratch at Test level in union?

"That is a question hopefully he will answer positively on Saturday. He has been great in training.

"He is a tremendous athlete, he is good around the lads, so it is just about proving a point on the field."

Wood accepts it is essential England win the two warm-up games at Twickenham, against France on Saturday and Ireland on September 5.

"It would certainly diminish our advantage on paper and undermine us slightly, saying that we have huge home advantage playing at Twickenham during the World Cup, if we end lose warm-up games," he said.

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