Pears is given all-clear to play on

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Rugby Union

David Pears has set his sights on a return to the England side next season after being given the all-clear to continue playing. The Harlequins stand-off's future had been in doubt after he badly damaged his ankle for the second time in a month last November, but a specialist has told him he can resume training in June.

"It's very good news," Pears said. "At 28 I still have time to get back in the England side and win more caps. I had been worried that my rehabilitation would not work. It was a bad setback after my return was going so well in the first couple of months of the season, but I had overcome worse problems.

"I hoped that I could physically recover and after all that I have been through, I knew that I could cope with the mental side."

Pears has injured almost every part of his body, with his neck, hand, nose, ribs, groin, hamstring, head, knee and ankle having suffered at one point. His problems have limited him to four caps between 1990 and 1994, and meant that he played only one league match in the 1992 and 1993 campaigns, and none last season.

This latest blow came in October, when he and Mike Catt collided in a Harlequins-Bath match. Pears returned quickly to play his eighth league match in November, but limped off while appearing for London against Western Samoa.

Another England hopeful recovering from injury is A international Simon Shaw, who plays his first competitive game in five months for Bristol United against Orrell's second XV at the Memorial Ground on Saturday.

There were fears that the giant lock might never play again when he had to undergo surgery after damaging his left ankle against Transvaal in November. That injury was the culmination of a disastrous year in which the 6ft 9in forward injured his knee in his third England A game against Italy, which ruled him out of the World Cup.

The Scotland winger Tony Stanger and Under-19 international James Craig are the first beneficiaries of a new Scottish Rugby Football Union scheme designed to help young players balance sporting and educational commitments.

Both men will receive grants of pounds 3,000 over the next academic year from the SRFU Educational Trust, which was set up to encourage players to remain in Scotland. The Trust is the brainchild of Scotland's director of rugby, Jim Telfer, who said: "Young men need to follow a career path in parallel with their rugby development."

One of the key roles of the Trust will be counselling, an area that has been operating for three months. The Trust is expected to raise pounds 50,000 in three years to meet the anticipated requests for financial help from players, with the SRFU also contributing pounds 25,000.

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