Gallagher's green light for Quins

Rugby Union
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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

STEVE BALE

John Gallagher, the former All Black full-back and now a prospective Irish international, will make his debut for Harlequins this afternoon after being graciously permitted by the Rugby Football Union to play in non-league and cup matches.

Yesterday's RFU executive decision frees 10 former rugby league players, of whom Gallagher - London-born of Irish parentage - is comfortably the most distinguished, to return to union forthwith, though the constraints of the RFU moratorium continue to keep them out of anything meaningful. The RFU has already prevented Gallagher from playing in the County Championship for Kent.

Among the others to be semi-reinstated are two England players, Peter Williams, Nigel Heslop, and one England A man, Martin Strett, all of whom will play for their former union club, Orrell. But the moratorium, which is continuing all the old regulations at club level until the end of the season, will continue in force.

With the Irish RFU having gladly accepted Gallagher on the bench for Irish Exiles and the Welsh having no problem with the full reintegration of Jonathan Davies, the RFU would have looked foolish in the extreme if they had failed to act. As it is, the contrast in the policies of different unions does nothing for the repute of the no-longer-amateur game, especially in England.

Indeed Gallagher, 31, has already turned out in a match under WRU auspices, last month's Ieuan Evans testimonial, making today's against Rosslyn Park at The Stoop his second since returning to his original code after five years in rugby league.

Gallagher already has credible representative ambitions but the standard of rugby to which he will for now be restricted will scarcely be conducive to their realisation. Next Saturday, for instance, Quins have a pre-international match against the Royal Navy.

Having tried every other form of preparation, psychological and physical, the England team will undergo vision testing at their Richmond hotel next Thursday, 48 hours before they meet Western Samoa at Twickenham. Among the faculties to be assessed are hand/eye co- ordination, response reaction time and peripheral vision, none of which was in perfect working order in last month's defeat by South Africa.

The Samoans will field as near to their Test-strength side, including 13 of those who drew with Scotland, as possible in tonight's game against the South-West at Gloucester. George Leaupepe - one of the horde of players from all parts of the globe who are said to be about to join Gallagher at The Stoop - is absent with a knee injury, allowing Kaisa Tuigamala (a distant relation of Va'aiga, another All Black who went to rugby league) to play at centre, and Mark Birtwistle is preferred to Potu Leavasa at lock.

The two unbeaten divisions, Midlands and North, meet at Nottingham in the decider for the CIS trophy. The North are disappointed that Neil Ashurst - the Sale flanker whom they have been pushing for higher honours - has withdrawn through injury and indignant that John Fowler, also of Sale, should have withdrawn for "business" reasons.

"I would have hoped that the honour of playing for the North would have been enough to enable him to make himself available," Dave Stubbs, the North coach, grumbled. Fowler's supposed demands had apparently almost caused his withdrawal from the North's notable defeat of Samoa on Tuesday.

SOUTH-WEST: P Hull (Bristol, capt); N Beal (Northampton), A Turner (Exeter), S Enoch (Pontypridd), P Holford (Gloucester); R Dix (Harlequins), B Fenley; A Windo (Gloucester), K Dunn (Wasps), D Hinkins (Bristol), D Sims (Gloucester), C Yandell (Saracens), P Glanville (Gloucester), E Rollitt, J Pearson (Bristol).

WESTERN SAMOA: H V Patu (Vaiala); B Lima (Marist), T Vaega (Te Atatu), K Tuigamala (Scopa), A Telea (Petone); D Kellett (Ponsonby), J Filemu (Wellington); M Mika (Otago University), O Matauiau (Moata'a), P Fatialofa (Manukau), L Falaniko (Marist), M Birtwistle (Suburbs), S Kaleta (Ponsonby), P Lam (capt), S Vaifale (Marist).

Referee: D Mene (Marseille).

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