Carling is left out of England squad

Click to follow
All Will Carling did last March was to step down as England captain, but before he has passed a ball in anger, his international career is being written off, fuelled by the decision of the England coach, Jack Rowell, to leave out an illustrious quartet of players, Rory Underwood, Jeremy Guscott, Dean Richards and Carling, from his latest training squad at Bisham Abbey next Wednesday. Once more, the England management insisted nothing should be read into the omissions.

Carling was a puzzled man yesterday, claiming he had not heard from the England management all summer and certainly had not been given any warning of his axeing from the squad.

Carling, still only 30, insisted: "I am desperate to play for England, as always. I can't see any reason why I can't be considered. I want to play for England and age is not an issue."

Even so, he was clearly disappointed not to have heard from Rowell prior to the news breaking. "I haven't been told anything about the rationale behind the squad," he said. "No one's been in communication with me, but why should they?"

Carling, who led England to 44 wins in his 59 matches in charge, added: "This summer I have had no playing commitments and have trained as hard as ever. I hope to be even fitter and make a more influential contribution than last season."

Where he will exert that influence from is a moot point. He begins the season at centre for Harlequins in the Courage League opener against Gloucester on Saturday, but he has said he wants to switch to stand-off. The arrival next month of the Wigan rugby league centre Gary Connolly, whose signing by Quins along with that of the Bradford Bulls captain and scrum-half Robbie Paul was confirmed yesterday, could well release him to undertake that role. Carling was fulsome in his praise of Connolly, however, and called the Great Britain international "probably the best rugby centre in Britain".

For his part, Connolly was cautious about taking up the 15-man code. "I have only played rugby union once before," he admitted, "for Wigan against Bath last May. My short-term ambition is to settle in and concentrate on playing well for Harlequins for the time being." It is hoped Connolly will make his Quins debut against Cardiff on 11 September - if the proposed Anglo-Welsh tournament goes ahead.

England squad,

Digest, page 23