Liam's debut try

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He May not want to be compared with his father, but Liam Botham is making it very difficult for us to avoid doing so. On the first day of the new whizzo Heineken Cup it was Botham's Boy Wonder who captured the rugby headlines in an Edinburgh friendly.

Just as Ian occupied the cricket close season by playing football for Scunthorpe United, so his 19-year-old son is filling in his down-time away from Hampshire CCC by running out at centre for West Hartlepool. The teenager signed for the club on the recommendation of his father's Question of Sport colleague Bill Beaumont.

In true Roy of the Rovers fashion, Liam came on for his debut as a 53rd- minute replacement in a friendly at Watsonians and touched down two minutes from time to help West Hartlepool secure a rare win, 37-25. His father must be writing his script.

Battling performance of the day yesterday came from Rugby Lions, who bounced back from their record-breaking 156-5 drubbing by Newcastle last weekend. Summoning not a little bottle, they overcame Midlands rivals Moseley, 29-22, in their home League Two match.

There were a fair number of drubbings in the Heineken Cup though. Pau scattered a Scottish Borders team containing five internationals, 85-28, with Benjamin Lhande clocking up four tries, while Brive overcame Neath by 34-19. Milan let down the Continental side by losing 23-5 at Munster.

In the secondary competition, the European Conference, it was a grim afternoon for Wales. Newport, Dunvant, Newbridge, Treorchy, Bridgend and Ebbw Vale all came to grief. Swansea upheld national pride, overcoming London Irish, 63-38.

Last year the proud South African captain Francois Pienaar received the World Cup from his President, Nelson Mandela, who was wearing Pienaar's No 6 jersey by way of tribute. The victory over New Zealand was sealed by an extra-time drop goal by outside-half Joel Stransky.

But that seems like ancient history now, as it was announced yesterday that both Pienaar and his match-winning No 10 have been omitted from the 36-strong Springbok squad which will tour Argentina, France and Wales in November and December. Pienaar last led the South Africans in their Tri-Nations defeat against New Zealand in Cape Town on 10 August when he was forced to come off with a neck injury.

The Natal No 8 Gary Teichmann, who took over for the subsequent three- Test series against the All Blacks, retains the captaincy. The Springbok coach Andre Markgraaff gave it to us straight: "On merit, Francois can't make the Springbok Test side ... Francois does not form part of the vision and future of South African rugby.''

Pienaar's unhappiness was compounded by the fact that he first heard of his omission from television. A year is a long time in rugby.