No change for England

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The Independent Online
Jack Rowell will today name an unchanged England team to tackle the third leg of the Grand Slam against Wales in Cardiff on 18 February. "This team, I think, picks itself," the manager said.

This is dependent on Will Carling avoiding disciplinary action for the injury that put France's full-back, Jean-Luc Sadourny, out of the game. This laughable possibility was raised in Paris yesterday by Bernard Lapasset, the president of the French rugbyfederation.

Sadourny was hurt in a ruck and required 12 stitches behind his left knee. The joke is on Lapasset because not only was Carling not responsible but a French player, Abdel Benazzi, has owned up.

The French are in a sensitive mood after the disciplinary dropping of Olivier Merle from the England game for butting Ricky Evans, the Wales prop. "It is clear that if the act is reprehensible, we shall adopt the same procedures as the Welsh did over Merle," Lapasset said.

Strangely, the federation president did not take up the matter with Carling at the post-match banquet, when they were only separated on the top table by Philippe Saint-Andre, the French captain.

Rowell said that team selection would probably take about five minutes, and the same England choice for the third time running will have a serious effect on another critical round of Courage league fixtures on Saturday.

Northampton's increasingly desperate fight against relegation will be undermined against Sale by the absence of Martin Bayfield and Tim Rodber, while Harlequins must do without Carling, Jason Leonard and Brian Moore against Bristol.

Bath and Leicester, the title contenders, are marginally more fortunate. Bath will be permitted to field one of Catt, Guscott, Ubogu and Clarke at Orrell, and Leicester one of the Underwood brothers, Johnson and Richards at Gloucester.

The Welsh team will be announced tomorrow, with Ieuan Evans likely to return as captain and right wing now that the ankle he broke has stood up to two matches. Nigel Davies is fit to return at centre after a broken cheekbone and Emyr Lewis at No 8 after an ankle injury.

France's selection to play Scotland will take place on Wednesday, as will Scotland's, amid agonised debate on how French club rugby can best serve the national team.

five nations reports, pages 28 and 29

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