posted on May, 14 2004 @ 05:37 PM
England will be without a third of their victorious World Cup squad for next month's demanding tour to New Zealand and Australia.
Head coach Sir Clive Woodward confirmed that long-term injury victim Jonny Wilkinson will not be considered until England's autumn Test programme
later this year, when the world champions face Australia, South Africa and Canada.
Wilkinson's fellow fly-half Paul Grayson, meanwhile, has become the latest World Cup hero to announce his retirement from international rugby,
following Martin Johnson, Neil Back, Jason Leonard and Kyran Bracken.
Grayson, 33 later this month, amassed exactly 400 points during his Test career, second only behind Wilkinson on England's all-time list.
Woodward intends announcing his tour party on Monday. England tackle the All Blacks in Dunedin on June 12 and Auckland seven days later, followed by a
World Cup final rematch with Australia at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on June 26.
Definitely ruled out through injury are Wilkinson (shoulder/neck), prop Phil Vickery (back) and flanker Lewis Moody (foot). Full-back Ian Balshaw
seems certain to join the casualty count because of a groin injury.
Elsewhere, centre Mike Tindall hasn't played since early April, initially because of a stomach muscle problem and then a hamstring injury, while
scrum-half Matt Dawson misses Northampton's Zurich Premiership play-off clash against Wasps on Sunday due to calf trouble.
Woodward has not overseen a defeat against Tri-Nations opposition for 12 Test matches, beating both Australia and South Africa five times in a row,
while victory over new Zealand in Dunedin would make it an unprecedented hat-trick during a series stretching back 99 years.
World champions or not though, England will be up against it this summer.