England keep Carling waiting for captaincy

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The Independent Online
Will Carling may have friends in such high places as Kensington Palace but not yet in the high place that really matters: the England management. Yesterday a squad of 35 was named with a view to the 18 November match against South Africa and Carling, far from being captain, remains a humble foot-soldier.

This may change but, if so, there is no longer any good reason for keeping him hanging on. It is an embarrassing put-down when Carling was so confident that Jack Rowell, the manager, had asked him to carry on that he told everyone last month.

Then came the denial - by the Rugby Football Union or the sphinx-like Rowell, it is hard to tell which - informing him that the appointment had yet to go through the appropriate channels, or even be approved by Rowell. The manager insisted last night that there was nothing sinister in the lack of a captain. "When I became manager last year I believed in him," Rowell said. "His leadership has improved since I have been manager. It's not an issue. I am relaxed about it and I expect that Will is also."

Carling has also had to put up with Brian Moore, declaring in the autobiography which will be published next month that the time is right for a new captain. It will be fascinating to see the old comrades' relationship if the World Cup status quo is after all maintained.

That said, the time may equally be right for a new hooker, though Moore is there in the squad alongside Carling. The latter's form for Harlequins indicates that whether or not the captaincy is at issue - apparently, the selectors did not as mention it when they met on Tuesday - the time is not right for a change in Carling's centre position.

As the principal members of the older guard - Carling, Moore, Rob Andrew, Dean Richards, Rory Underwood, though not the 36-year-old reserve hooker Graham Dawe - remain among the 35, Rowell still has to decide if now is the hour for a generational change.

However if past experience is anything to go by, something is about to happen. Rowell always reckoned the secret of his success at Bath was to change the chemistry for each new season and in this context he was wont to quote the example of Bertie Mee's purchase of Alan Ball as soon as Arsenal had done the Double in 1971.

Along with Dawe, John Mallett is discarded from England's World Cup 26, with the other absentees being Dewi Morris, who has retired, and Tony Underwood, who is injured. Mike Catt stays at full-back rather than outside- half, where he plays for Bath; Ian Hunter stays at wing rather than full- back, where he plays for Northampton; and there are 12 uncapped players.

Mark Regan takes Dawe's place as prime challenger to Moore and David Pears's reintroduction reflects not only rehabilitation after interminable injuries but also a threat at stand-off to Andrew, who in any case has a different priority from England now that he is on pounds 150,000 per annum as Newcastle's development director.

England will go on to play Western Samoa in December - always assuming the impecunious Samoans can make a trip due to kick off in Scotland. The Pacific islands will also be represented by the Fijians on tour in Wales and Ireland and yesterday the Welsh selectors produced a 41-strong squad from which Robert Jones, Anthony Clement and Gareth Llewellyn were contentiously omitted.

Wales squad, Sporting Digest

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England squad

Full-backs: J Callard, M Catt (Bath), T Stimpson (West Hartlepool); Wings: I Hunter (Northampton), J Sleightholme (Bath), R Underwood (Leicester); Centres: W Carling (Harlequins), P de Glanville (Bath), N Greenstock (Wasps), J Guscott (Bath), D Hopley (Wasps), P Mensah (Harlequins); Outside-halves: R Andrew (Wasps), D Pears (Harlequins); Scrum-halves: K Bracken (Bristol), M Dawson (Northampton), A Gomarsall (Wasps), R Kitchin (Harlequins); Props: D Garforth (Leicester), J Leonard (Harlequins), G Rowntree (Leicester), V Ubogu (Bath); Hookers: B Moore (Harlequins), M Regan (Bristol); Locks: M Bayfield (Northampton), M Johnson (Leicester), S Shaw (Bristol), R West (Gloucester); Back row: N Back (Leicester), B Clarke (Bath), L Dallaglio (Wasps), R Jenkins (Harlequins), S Ojomoh (Bath), D Richards (Leicester), T Rodber (Northampton).