Greening's brilliance heals the Divisionals

Rugby Union: South-West 11 Midlands 16
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The Independent Online
DAVID LLEWELLYN

South-West 11 Midlands 16

Opinion on the Divisional Championship's worth to English rugby has been, well, divided. But after Saturday's stirring match in the mud of Kingsholm there are a number of reasons why it deserves to be taken off death row. The England A team to face Western Samoa on 12 December at Gateshead is named this morning and at least two, if not more, of the youngsters on show will be included.

Phil Greening is a certainty after a particularly good game. He could well become England's youngest post-war hooker. He is only 20, does everything he is supposed to do at the set pieces but has another dimension to his game, that of a fourth flanker. He runs lines like a seasoned back-row man, tackles terminally and has hands that reveal his early days as a centre.

Jack Rowell, the England manager, described the unemployed carpenter as "very promising" - praise indeed from someone who is not known for excesses. Rowell, and the rest of the England A management team went into a huddle after the match and it is likely that the name of the South-West's outside-half Alex King, a second-year student at Bristol University, will have been prominently mentioned.

King did everything right, not least of which was keeping the opposition midfield - no slouches themselves - guessing at his every move until the last minute. King's potential was underlined by the news that Richard Hill, Gloucester's director of coaching (and incidentally the England A coach) invited the Rosslyn Park 20-year-old to join the Kingsholm ranks. King is thinking over the offer.

Greening and King may well be joined at Gateshead by the Midlands full- back James Quantrill, who revealed pace and perception when coming into the line but also proved sound in defence and an able goalkicker. Northampton's loose-head prop Matt Volland also looked versatile and mobile, while his club colleague, Budge Pountney did his claims no harm.

All in all, a match that could well have foundered in the atrocious conditions, produced several bright performances . "If the Divisionals pick young players," Rowell said, "always accepting that there needs to be a spine [of experience], it is a wonderful shop window."

South-West: Try Fenley; Penalty King; Drop goal King. Midlands: Tries Pountney, Skingsley; Penalties Quantrill 2.

SOUTH-WEST: P Hull (Bristol, capt); P Holford (Gloucester), S Enoch (Pontypridd), M Denney (Bristol), J Sleightholme (Bath); A King (Rosslyn Park), B Fenley (Gloucester); K Yates (Bath), P Greening (Gloucester), D Crompton (Bristol), G Archer (Bristol), C Yandell (Saracens), P Glanville (Gloucester), J Pearson, E Rollitt (Bristol). Replacement: R Fidler (Gloucester) for Yandell, 42 min.

MIDLANDS: J Quantrill (Rugby Lions); R Subbiani (Bedford), A Kerr (Moseley), B Whetstone (Bedford), H Thorneycroft (Northampton); P Grayson (Northampton, capt), J Farr (Winnington Park); M Volland, T Beddow (Northampton), N Webber (Moseley), D Grewcock (Coventry), R West (Gloucester), I Skingsley (Bedford), B Pountney (Northampton), G Seely (Northampton).

Referee: J Pearson (Yarm, Cleveland).

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