Patient Morris is recalled to tame Pumas

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The Independent Online
Dewi Morris temporarily gave up his job in order to win back his international scrum-half place, and this remarkable sacrifice was requited yesterday when he displaced Kyran Bracken for England's first World Cup match against Argentina at King's Park on Saturday.

The team who remained unchanged during the domestic Grand Slam were further dismantled when Dean Richards again broke down in training and was replaced at No 8 by Steve Ojomoh, in the hope that Richards will be fit to face Italy next Wednesday.

If anyone deserved a slice of fortune in South Africa it was Morris, who was in the 1991 World Cup squad but remained on the bench while Richard Hill played in each of England's six matches. If Bracken had still been preferred in South Africa, Morris might have suffered the same cruel fate here.

Jack Rowell, the manager, is keen to use all 26 during the pool games but he accepts that this may not be possible. "Kyran will be expecting to come in to play some time," Rowell said. "Ideally, everyone will get at least one game; pragmatically, that almost certainly will not be the case."

Morris, 31, will retire at the end of the World Cup and, having irrevocably made the decision to finish, was willing to stop work, use up his modest savings and make rugby the absolute priority for the final half-season of his playing career.

He will return to his job with a leisurewear company in Warrington when he gets home from South Africa. "It makes it all worthwhile," he said. "I took unpaid leave from 1 January because the demands now are so ridiculous. You can't try and do both roles as an international player and holding down a job."

Slavish devotion was the only way Morris believed he would recover his place and so, at last, appear in a World Cup and add to his 21 caps. "I was one of the golden bullets with David Pears in '91 and I would have been deeply disappointed if I had gone through another World Cup without a game," he said.

Bracken played through the Five Nations, to Morris's exclusion, but he has been left patently ill-prepared for this World Cup by a back injury which kept him out of the Bristol side ever since the Scots were beaten at Twickenham in March.

Rowell made it sound as if Bracken should begin thinking long-term. "Kyran is in pole position to go forward as Dewi comes up to retirement," he said - which sounded suspiciously like Bracken's chance had more or less gone with this one selection, even if he did come in against the Italians or Samoans.

As for Richards, Sunday's suggestion that his hamstring injury was only 48 hours from full recovery was shown to be wishful thinking. "Dean has been forcing himself to get fit and we want to get out of that scenario," Rowell said. "What is important is that when he plays he is fully fit." He duly spent last night's session on the touchline.

On Sunday Rowell indicated a more obvious alternative of moving Ben Clarke to No 8 and bringing in either Ojomoh or Neil Back on the open-side flank. But by yesterday he had thought better of it, knowing that he will want Clarke as his open side in the knock-out and therefore not wanting to cause unnecessary disruption.

Even Clarke, who is a manifestly reluctant convert, agreed with the sense of that and Ojomoh is perfectly happy to have this opportunity in his and Clarke's favoured position. "Dean has been an icon and anchor for some years but the England forwards have to learn to play without him and succeed," the manager added.

There was a slight scare for Will Carling last night, when he turned an ankle in training. He left the session immediately, but selector John Elliott said: "Will may have a day or two off but we have no anxiety about him missing our first match."

Argentina make two changes from the team who caused Australia anxiety before going down 30-13 this month and nowadays have Federico Mendez, the prop sent off for knocking out Paul Ackford at Twickenham in 1990, at hooker. Ezequiel Jurado, who began in Brisbane as a debutant wing, goes to full-back in place of the injured Santiago Meson, with Diego Cuesta Silva returning on the wing and Lisandro Arbizu ousting Guillermo del Castillo at stand-off.

ENGLAND (v Argentina, Durban, Saturday): M Catt (Bath); T Underwood (Leicester), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), J Guscott (Bath), R Underwood (Leicester); R Andrew (Wasps), D Morris (Orrell); J Leonard, B Moore (Harlequins), V Ubogu (Bath), M Johnson (Leicester), M Bayfield, T Rodber (Northampton), S Ojomoh, B Clarke (Bath). Replacements: J Callard, P de Glanville (Bath), K Bracken (Bristol), G Rowntree (Leicester), G Dawe (Bath), N Back (Leicester).

ARGENTINA: E Jurado (Rosario); D Cuesta Silva (San Isidro Club), S Salvat (capt), F Garcia (Alumni), M Teran (Tucuman); L Arbizu (Belgrano), R Crexell (Rosario); M Corral (San Isidro Club), F Mendez (Mendoza), P Noriega (Hindu), P Sporleder (Curupayti), G Llanes (La Plata), R Martin (San Isidro Club), J Santamarina (Tucuman), C Viel (Newman).

World Cup previews, page 30