Ojomoh has to prove himself all over again

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The Independent Online
Steve Ojomoh leads England A against their South African counterparts at Gloucester tonight, insisting that he is still good enough for senior international rugby.

Bath's new pack leader has filled all three England back row positions during an 11-cap Test career stretching back to February 1994. But he has never strung more than three games together, often being the unlucky "fourth man" behind Dean Richards, Ben Clarke, Tim Rodber, Lawrence Dallaglio and now, Chris Sheasby.

The Saracens pair, Tony Diprose and Richard Hill, are also lurking menacingly, leaving Ojomoh once again with everything to do.

"I've been playing well all season, but it is strange because I cannot really understand what's going on," he said.

"I will play anywhere in the back row. That bit doesn't bother me. But I have to prove myself again, even though I keep on doing so."

Ojomoh, 26, is revelling in his role of leading the Bath forwards, handed to him for October's European Cup showdown with the French club Dax once Andy Robinson could no longer pin down a regular first-team place.

Those qualities will be required when he captains a young, inexperienced shadow England side against South Africa's highly competent A selection at Kingsholm.

It is a far cry from three summers ago, though, when Ojomoh emerged as England's outstanding forward during a drawn Test series with the Springboks.

Only one Five Nations appearance ensued the following season - as replacement for Richards against Scotland - then came a World Cup supporting role, and finally France in Paris last January - a 15-12 defeat. He has won no caps since.

"The back row is a funny old area. You're only as good as your last game, especially in this country where there are so many guys to pick from," he said.

"It is probably more competitive than ever at the moment, but I refuse to accept that my international career is over."

The Gloucester game is the second of three England A fixtures in four days, their busy programme concluding against unbeaten Queensland at Gateshead on Friday night, when they will be without the Bristol captain, Martin Corry .

The 23-year-old flanker, who limped off in the closing minutes of Bristol's 15-13 defeat against Wasps at Loftus Road on Saturday with an ankle injury, had already withdrawn from the England A side to face Argentina at Northampton last night.

The inspirational club captain could also be ruled out of Bristol's rescheduled league game at home to Leicester tomorrow week. His absence would be a major blow to the West Country side who are struggling in the relegation zone, two points adrift of their neighbours Gloucester, who they face on December 29.

"The good news is that it is just tendon trouble rather than ligament damage," Corry yesterday.

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