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Greenwood: Lancaster was right

Published 11/06/2015

Jonny Wilkinson believes the current England squad are more professional than the side he won the World Cup with
Jonny Wilkinson believes the current England squad are more professional than the side he won the World Cup with

Rugby World Cup winner Will Greenwood believes it was right for Stuart Lancaster to jettison England's ill-disciplined stars for the 2015 tournament for the good of the team.

Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi and Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley have been ruled out of contention for the squad by head coach Lancaster for off and on-field misdemeanours.

Greenwood was speaking from Jed Forest on the Rugby World Cup trophy tour and with 99 days to go to the opening game between hosts England and Fiji on September 18 at Twickenham.

"You don't win a World Cup with the best players, you win a World Cup with the best team," Greenwood, a member of the England team which won the 2003 tournament, told Press Association Sport.

"There's no greater testament to that than England's team of 2003, where there might have been two or three that would have made a World XV, but the vast majority of the lads were happy to compete in units.

"The key is to build a cohesive, powerful, strong, united team that are all living their life with similar values and ethos at the very core.

"That's what Lancaster has adopted. To understand it's not about the best players, it's about the best team and hopefully the best players in the right environment create the best team.

"The only thing they're doing is creating an environment to give them the best opportunity to win."

Tuilagi will not be considered by Lancaster until January 2016 after being fined for two counts of assaulting a police officer, assault by beating and causing criminal damage.

Hartley was banned for four weeks for headbutting Saracens hooker Jamie George, who has replaced him in the squad.

Hartley has been hit with 54 weeks of sanctions in a career punctuated by indiscipline.

Yet despite the absence of two of their best players, Greenwood thinks the national fervour the Rugby World Cup could create will boost England's chances of succeeding 2011 winners and favourites New Zealand as the victors.

"Home advantage and the quality of the players they've got and the coaches they've got gives this team a valid reason to be second favourites for this tournament," added Greenwood.

Tuilagi has been linked with a move to Toulouse in recent days, something which would likely rule him out of England selection.

England overlook foreign-based players, save for an "exceptional circumstances" clause that has never been invoked.

Greenwood would not be drawn on a possible move for Tuilagi away from his former club.

"What we do know if you go to France you don't play for England," Greenwood said.

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