Haag heads off with high hopes

RUGBY UNION

The Bath lock Martin Haag left for Argentina last night determined to grasp the England chance he thought had disappeared. He is one of 16 uncapped players making the two-Test three-week trip England are using as development for the 1999 World Cup.

Seven of Haag's Bath colleagues on tour have already made an international breakthrough. "It is a great opportunity. I am determined to prove I can play and hopefully get into the Test team," Haag said.

"There is a lot to work for, and if I can have a good tour you never know what may open up in future. I will do everything I can to get an England cap and although I wouldn't want to be a one-cap wonder, perhaps I would settle for that if it came my way."

Haag has an early chance to impress the England coach, Jack Rowell, being one of four uncapped players selected for the tour opener against Argentina's state champions, Cordoba, on Wednesday night.

Despite playing somewhere in the region of 200 first-team matches for Bath, Haag faded even from the England A set-up this season before Rowell gave him a surprise call-up to visit South America.

"As the season went on and I wasn't even involved with the A team, I thought I would have no chance," Haag said. "I never expected to get picked. When you have been overlooked, even for the A team, and there are people around like Gloucester's Dave Sims in contention who are three or four years younger than me, you start to think perhaps it won't happen any more."

England were due to arrive in Cordoba in mid-morning today following a flight via Madrid, Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. Their captain, Phil de Glanville, thinks it is hardly ideal that Cordoba, beaten 50-15 by an Argentinian XV last week, await his side so early.

"It's not the best situation but at least it will sharpen us up early on as we know we can expect a tough challenge from them," de Glanville said.

He leads into the match an experienced England side which, as well as Haag, also includes other Test hopefuls in the Sale full-back Jim Mallinder, the Wasps centre Nick Greenstock and the Harlequins flanker Rory Jenkins.

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