Fresh blow for England: Harry out of the World Cup

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The Independent Online

When England rugby captain Martin Johnson lifted the World Cup in Australia four years ago, Prince Harry was a fixture in the executive seats, finding reasons to hug the wife of coach Clive Woodward.

The 2007 tournament commences in France in nine days. England require a miraculous resurgence to retain the trophy, and it seems the reigning champions will be without their highest-profile supporter.

Harry's army colleagues in his Guards regiment, the Household Cavalry, are off to Afghanistan in the coming weeks in the mass troop rotation. Thus, the prince is highly unlikely to attend any England matches.

Having been banned from serving in Iraq, Harry (aka 2nd Lieut Wales) is determined to see active service in the Afghan theatre. He may be given a desk job in Kabul, but the thinking remains that his presence is too risky to fellow soldiers, and he will probably have to stay behind in Blighty again. Which would leave Harry free to watch England at the World Cup- except that he cannot be seen belting out "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" while his men toil under Taliban fire in Helmand.

Meanwhile, his brother William, the recently appointed vice patron of the Welsh Rugby Union, risks another backlash from fans suspicious that he lacks passion for their cause (he actually supports England).

Wills won't attend Wales's opener against Canada, and a WRU spokeswoman tells Pandora they are still in the dark over whether he will come to the all-important clash with Australia in Cardiff on September 15.

Stones and glass houses - Keef upset by Ron book

Three decades of shared benders have given Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood a "hot and cold" friendship. At the zenith of their drug-taking, they held cocked guns to each other's heads, Mexican-style. Keef once clasped a knife to Ron's throat. Keef threw Ronnie's son's canary out of the window because it was disturbing his hangover and he thought it was an alarm clock.

The latest frosting is just so sexagenarian rock'n'roll: Ronnie has deigned to release his autobiography (as first reported in Pandora) before Keef's memoirs hit bookshop shelves in 2010, and Keef has got crabby. Ronnie tells The Bookseller: "We've just agreed to keep it at arm's length from each other."

If Keef hadn't impersonated a coconut by falling out of a palm tree and cracking his bonce, he might have already finished his tome.

Floyd flies

The fermenting chef Keith Floyd, 63, collapsed in his restaurant in the Thai resort of Phuket on Saturday, reportedly rolling on the floor clutching his chest. I am delighted to hear, then, that local doctors haven't been able to keep their rubber clutches on the old rogue for long.

Reports claimed he was bedridden, but my dreadlocked backpacker says that Floyd has fled the quacks, his hospital gown tails flapping in the warm breeze, and caught a flight back to London. He didn't travel "cold in the hold", but instead kept a watchful eye on the stewardess's trolley of miniatures. I look forward to sharing a bottle of something thick and red.

A history lesson for the Prof

Jealousy is the tribute that mediocrity pays to genius, and critics of the suave telly don Niall Ferguson portray him as a media-savvy right-wing contrarian aware of the value of a slick sentence and designer sunglasses.

One worries for Harvard's Prof Ferguson, though. Still only 43, he writes so many articles; appears on our flatscreens so frequently. Does he need a break?

Last year, the Glasgow-born historian declared his support for Scottish independence: "Independence would be preferable to this halfway house we have at the moment. Ireland and some east European countries like Estonia show that small countries which embrace economic liberalism can thrive."

Au contraire, Jock! Ferguson now warns Scots at Edinburgh's Book Festival: "Independence is a wonderful thing to sing after a few pints in Murrayfield but rather different when you wake up in the morning and have to balance the books. Be careful of what you wish for."

Stan not out of the doghouse yet

Fans of the Beautiful Game are experiencing tingles and a rosy glow all over as they reacclimatise to the presence of Stan Collymore, the former footballer and celebrity "dogger", on publicly-funded airwaves.

Back in 2004, bosses at BBC Radio 5 Live separated pundit Stan's sweaty palms from their microphone, when it emerged that he frequented a Staffordshire car park to have sex with strangers. But "Comeback" Collymore, last seen having his fingers sucked by Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct 2, is football's answer to Geoffrey Boycott, and 5 Live has reemployed him as a co-commentator and presenter. Stan has been given a 5 Live Premier League pass, his former agent tells me, "so he's institutionalised again with 5 Live".

The radio station itself is rather nervous about the whole thing: "He's part of a large roster of football pundits... He's not on staff, he's a freelance on an ad hoc basis... Only time will tell, we chop and change." Just stay away from the studio car park, Stan!