Stephenson set for England duty

Click to follow
The Independent Online

England are set to name Francis Stephenson in their side to play Russia tomorrow, despite the possibility that he could face charges over allegations relating to an incident in a night-club.

England are set to name Francis Stephenson in their side to play Russia tomorrow, despite the possibility that he could face charges over allegations relating to an incident in a night-club.

Stephenson, the prop recently signed from Wakefield by Wigan who wore an England shirt for the first time against the United States 10 days ago, was on a night out last week with other players not selected for Saturday's tournament-opener at Twickenham when the alleged incident took place.

"It is an accusation without any evidence and he is protesting complete innocence," the England team manager, David Howes, said. "That is why we are continuing with training and team selection unaffected by it."

Stephenson and the other players not involved against Australia would normally expect to be named in the side for the match at St Helens to be named this afternoon.

The Rugby League's man in charge of the Lincoln World Cup, Greg McCallum, has ordered referees to clamp down on high tackling after the first round of matches over the weekend.

"I've been alarmed by some of the tackling I saw in the opening matches and there are real issues regarding player safety," McCallum said. "I expect referees to take action against the perpetrators."

McCallum, who has also called for officials to exert more control around the play-the-ball, has denied being disappointed with gates at the opening round of fixtures.

Twickenham was less than half full for the England-Australia game and there were attendances in the 2,000 to 3,000 range at Barrow, Gloucester and Belfast.

McCallum called those figures "satisfactory," considering the circumstances of the weekend. "When you think about the national transport system's problems, the weekend's awful weather conditions and the fact that not one of the fixtures was played within the game's traditional heartlands, we are reasonably happy with the attendances," he said.

For all that, the organisers are obviously unhappy that the start of the World Cup has co-incided with the worst autumn weather in living memory. There are contingency plans in place to delay games by a day if grounds become unplayable or access becomes impossible. "But all the grounds we are playing on are pretty well drained and we could be over the worst," a spokesman said.

Scotland are resigned to playing tomorrow's vital match against Ireland in Dublin without the Leeds wing or centre, Graham Mackay, who went off injured during the single-point defeat by the New Zealand Maori side on Sunday.

Comments