Carling to face Samoans

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

STEVE BALE

Will Carling will complete his mandatory 21-day stand-down for concussion in good time to lead England against Western Samoa on 16 December, though his injury appeared much more serious when he was carried off towards the end of the Twickenham defeat by South Africa.

By yesterday Carling had only a headache and stiff neck to worry about, having initially been knocked out cold under a pile of bodies and then been immobilised while unconscious by paramedics attending him during an anxious seven-minute break in play.

As the relevant International Board resolution stipulates a minimum three- week absence from the time of the injury, Carling would not be permitted to make his comeback on the Saturday before the Samoan Test, but he said yesterday he had in any case not intended to play during the period between Tests.

The prognosis varies between England's two back-row casualties, Tim Rodber and Ben Clarke. Rodber's performance against the Springboks was impaired from an early stage by a severely bruised shoulder compounded by internal bleeding and it is too early to say whether he will be fit within a month.

There is no doubt about Clarke, however. Though England's new pack leader did not have to be replaced like Rodber and Carling, he was taken to hospital with a suspected fractured cheekbone after being punched by Joel Stransky, only for an X-ray to reveal the damage to be severe bruising.

Yesterday Stransky, fortunate not to be dismissed after a touch-judge had drawn the referee's attention to his actions, apologised to Clarke, explaining but not excusing himself by pointing out that the Englishman had tackled him late. "I feel really bad about it," the South African stand-off said. "I don't know what came over me. I've never done anything like that before. It's simply not like me."

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