Bradley pulls out of Irish team

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RUGBY UNION : Michael Bradley put rugby football - even international rugby football - into its proper context last night, when he withdrew from the Ireland team to play England at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, following the death of his new-born s on lastweek.

In the end the Irish captain, who is understandably reluctant to be away from his wife, did not travel to Dublin yesterday. In his place, Brendan Mullin - in his 47th international - will lead Ireland for the first time, and Niall Hogan of Terenure will win his first cap at scrum-half.

Tactical considerations are fatuous when set against the Bradleys' personal tragedy, but by pairing Hogan at half-back with another newcomer, Paul Burke, the Irish selectors are taking a considerable chance.

Hogan, 23, is a busy and courageous player, but has a suspect pass, and it would be asking a lot to expect him to shepherd Burke through Saturday's ordeal. Hogan was a late addition to Ireland's summer tour of Australia where he had a 100 per cent record, replacing the injured Alain Rolland in time to make one appearance, in the win over New South Wales Country in Lismore.

Fergus Aherne, the Ireland scrum-half until Bradley returned to the side in 1992, was an alternative contender who would have given Burke the benefit of long experience. There was also a lobby that favoured the Oxford Blue, David O'Mahony, Burke's partner for Cork Constitution and Munster for most of this season.

Instead, they have kept faith with their original choice as reserve, with Rolland moving up to the senior bench from the A team, and O'Mahony staying in the team who play England A at Donnybrook tomorrow.

Across the water, England's injured and ill - Martin Johnson (hamstring) and Dean Richards (flu) - declared themselves fit when the team trained yesterday.

The new England full-back, Mike Catt, who already knew he had been cleared to play in Dublin, was informed that a Rugby Football Union inquiry had "totally exonerated" him, despite his admission that he had been paid £200 a game to play for Eastern Province in his native South Africa two years ago.

As many as 4,000 forged terrace tickets for Saturday's match have been circulating in the north of England, threatening chaos at the Lansdowne Road turnstiles, where spectators are notoriously late in arriving.

The tickets, which show a face value of Irl£9, have been changing hands for £70 sterling. "They are good enough forgeries to deceive supporters who might be offered them," the RFU's ticket officer, Richard Ankerson, said. Phil Browne, of the Irish RFU, said: "The problem arises because of the enormous interest there is in this game."

The Scotland coach, Douglas Morgan, said yesterday that he would step down after the World Cup in South Africa in May and June. A run of eight internationals without a win since he took over last season has clearly dented his enthusiasm.

"It would be wrong to suggest I don't feel pressure or that I don't think about the criticism," Morgan said. His ninth match as coach takes place against Canada at Murrayfield on Saturday, for which there are 10 Scottish changes from the side heavily beaten by South Africa.

"I don't think my decision will make any difference to the players," he said. Favourite to succeed him is David Johnston, a centre who won 27 caps between 1979 and '86 and whose honours as Scotland A coach include the recent Springboks defeat.

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