Ashton closes in on squad
England coach ponders World Cup selections
By Tony Curtis. Last Updated: 12/08/07 1:27pm
England coach Brian Ashton has confirmed he is "close" to knowing who will be the 30 men charged with the task of retaining the World Cup.
Ashton will officially name his squad for the defence of the Webb Ellis Trophy on August 14, but with France the visitors to Twickenham on Saturday, there are still some places up for grabs.
Nick Abendanon, Jamie Noon, Olly Barkley, Ben Kay, James Haskell and Danny Cipriani will all be looking to make a big impression against the French, while Ashton is still monitoring the fitness of Mike Tindall, Mark Cueto, Peter Richards, Lewis Moody and Tom Rees.
And Ashton has admitted there are only one or two things left for him to consider.
He said: "I am pretty close to my final 30, but there are still issues.
"We have worked hard and got where we wanted to be. It was satisfying to play and win that first game last week.
"I would have been a lot happier if we had been able to play the three Tests (England face France in Marseille tomorrow week), then name a 30.
"I am sure I am not the only head coach in the world with that opinion, but, as they say, rules are rules and you have to get on with it.
"I will have to hold some hard conversations very soon with guys who have worked really hard these past weeks, but that is my job."