Is this the next England captain?

If Will Carling is deposed, Philip de Glanville is the man widely tipped for the succession. Steve Bale spoke to him
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The Independent Online
P hilip de Glanville may or may not be the next captain of England, and anyway he quite possibly may not be in the next England team, but he is suitably flattered that the connection has been made.

On the other hand, being captain of Bath is more than enough responsibility to be going on with and even now with September still upon us there is one of the season's climactic matches, today's at Leicester, to test his leadership credentials and even his international leadership pretensions.

De Glanville, who is frequently likened to that fine old Bath centre Simon Halliday, has been playing the best rugby of his life over the past year or two and in any other country would have been an automatic selection. But not in England, not when up against Will Carling and Jeremy Guscott.

It is speculation over Carling's future - as captain, and even as a humble member of the team - that has focused attention on De Glanville, and he is trying not to think too hard about it. "You can't have a captain who can't hold his place and I first have to get into the team before I could even think of being captain," he said. "And even then I have to be in the team regularly; if and when that happens, then the issue may become live."

For De Glanville the first part has been, and may still be, considerably harder than the second. He is 26, his 13 caps have been spread over three years, and he managed a full season in 1993-94 only because Guscott was injured. In this year's World Cup De Glanville and most observers felt he deserved better.

All the talk about Guscott's place being in jeopardy turned out to be erroneous. But De Glanville was so irritated that he did not even make the third-place match against France that he gave the England manager, not usually a man to argue with, the full benefit of his opinion. Perhaps only a player familiar with Jack Rowell from his coaching regime at Bath would have dared.

"I have to admit that at times it's been intensely frustrating, particularly during the World Cup," he said. "You can justify, and I can understand, why Jack picked Jerry for the Australia quarter-final but after we had lost the semi- final against New Zealand I would have thought - and there were four or five others who felt that same - I should have had a chance in the French game.

"For Jack not to make that choice was the biggest disappointment of the lot and I told him how I felt. This was about 1 o'clock in the morning, so I'm not sure the timing was perfect, but Jack responds better to straight talking. He may move in mysterious ways but the direct approach is better than sitting around and moping.

"In any case, many people have called him many names in his business environment as well as in rugby but I doubt if he remembers any of them. It's a strange irony but Jerry was wasted in that tournament and certainly we at Bath need to use him as much as we possibly can."

It is one of the exquisite beauties of Bath that they possess the most creative centre partnership - between De Glanville and Guscott - in the land. De Glanville has assumed the captaincy at a difficult time because, though it would be the height of arrogance for Bath ever to take the championship for granted, the very fact that they did not win it last season represents an emergency of sorts. To beat Wasps in the cup final was no more than consolation.

This was exemplified by the troubled relationship between John Hall, the new team manager who had led Bath last season, and Richard Hill, who resigned as chairman of selectors and has this week been appointed Gloucester's coaching director - a move any self-respecting Bathonian would once have regarded as the ultimate apostasy.

According to De Glanville, last season's undoubted problems have been resolved and, as for the Hall-Hill contretemps, it was blown out of proportion - if not by those usual suspects, the media, then by Hill himself. "One of the reasons for our relative failure last season was that we didn't have a clear playing-management structure," De Glanville said.

"Jack had left the club and there was a vacuum of direction. Bath players respond to a strong figurehead who calls the shots, but that wasn't in place. We had Richard as chairman of selectors, John as captain, Brian Ashton as head coach. There were confused lines of communication, and when I say confused I mean non- existent in certain areas.

"So we sat down the day after the cup final and asked ourselves what we wanted from our management structure and who we wanted to head it up. The unanimous answer was John Hall. Richard was opposed to it being a paid appointment but John kept right out of it. We approached him, not the other way round; John would have been happy just to retire."

One thing about internal politicking - of which Bath have had their share down the years of their success - is that it fits De Glanville perfectly for negotiating his and his players' way through the new professionalism. He has not gone as far as his Bath team-mate Mike Catt or Tony Underwood in giving up the day job but even De Glanville, still an England reserve more than first choice, has reflected changed circumstances by reducing his commitment as communications manager with Cow & Gate at Trowbridge to three days a week.

The next step is to get on with the business - which is precisely the right word - of becoming a club as well as international professional. Not withstanding the Rugby Football Union's one-year payment moratorium, Sir John Hall's move into rugby and with it Rob Andrew's managerial appointment at Newcastle are enticing but also uncomfortable products of the new dispensation.

"We at Bath need to have contracts in place well before the end of the season because it will be too late if we leave it to the end of the moratorium," De Glanville said. "People like Sir John, and others who will do something similar even if not on such a grand scale, will have offers on the table to players from Bath and elsewhere. And that's presupposing they haven't already been made."

Which is a new, and fundamentally different, expression of the intense loyalty that made Bath the best.