Carling proves his worth to everyone

West Hartlepool 21 Harlequins 41
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The Independent Online
West Hartlepool's Lane is not a venue which springs to mind as the likeliest arena in which to resurrect an England career. But Will Carling, who had never before appeared there in a Harlequins shirt, may well have cause to remember his part in the comprehensive defeat of hapless West, as the day he revived his chances of a recall to the national squad.

We can be sure of nothing in these uncertain times, though when Mike Slemen, a key member of Jack Rowell's selection and coaching coterie, closed his notebook after half an hour, there was only one name in it: W D C Carling.

Not that an England selector has too many options these days, with the First Division clubs packed with overseas players. West had seven Welshmen, a New Zealander and an Australian in their side. Quins are not quite so conspicuously multi-national, but four of their team were not English registered and they had another Frenchman on the bench on Saturday.

True, Daren O'Leary, who scored four tries against Gloucester a week ago, Peter Mensah and ex-Orrell wing Dan Luger, may soon press their claims. So too might Quins' No 8 Mick Watson. But it was Carling who caught everyone's eye.

Carling's new role as Quins' goal-kicker is little more than a distraction. In tighter games than this the pressure kicks will be taken by someone else. It is at centre where Carling's value to Harlequins, and to England, is beyond price.

Harlequins had easily contained West's limited attempts to expose any supposed weaknesses in their midfield and had scored two soft tries thanks to Paul Challinor's alertness, and some sloppy West defensive work.

Carling then cut loose with an incisive run, linked expertly with the Frenchman Laurent Cabannes, whose overhead pass fell invitingly for Mensah to touch down between the posts.

West came back at the end when Stephen John ran in two tries, though their cause had long been lost as Luger scored two, Nick Walshe another and Carling kicked four conversions and a penalty.

West Hartlepool: Tries S John (2); Conversions C John; Penalties C John (3). Harlequins: Tries Challinor (2), Luger (2), Mensah, Walshe; Conversions Carling (4); Penalty Carling.

West Hartlepool: M Silva; M Wood, J Connolly (J Stabler, 23), M Ring, S John; C John, M Roderick (D Patterson 75); W de Jonge, A Peacock, P Whitelock, C Murphy, K Moseley (capt), D Mitchell, J Ions, I Morgan.

Harlequins: J Staples; D O'Leary, W Carling, P Mensah, D Luger; P Challinor, N Walshe; J Leonard (capt), K Wood, A Mullins, A Snow, G Llewellyn, L Cabannes, R Jenkins, M Watson (B Davison, 63).

Referee: S Piercy (Goole).

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