RFU block Gallagher's return

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The Independent Online
John Gallagher has already had a comeback match in Wales but the former All Black full-back's hope of an early return to English rugby union after his years in rugby league were officially blocked by the Rugby Football Union yesterday.

It is a strange rugby world that permits Gallagher to participate in last week's Ieuan Evans testimonial match at Llanelli, but not Saturday's Kent v Hampshire County Championship match. But under the RFU's moratorium, the Evans match could not have taken place in England, nor could Jonathan Davies, another returning league man, have already had two games for Cardiff.

Kent informed the RFU that they had selected Gallagher, disingenuously adding that as far as they were concerned he was coming to them from rugby union, i.e. the Stradey Park testimonial. Nice try. "The RFU's viewpoint is that he is not eligible to play even in a friendly in England, let alone in competition," Tony Hallett, the secretary, said yesterday.

The attitude in Wales, not only to Jonathan Davies but to any other returning prodigal, is to make the welcome immediate - so much so that Davies, recovering from a hernia operation, is already on the Welsh Rugby Union payroll. By contrast Gallagher, who wishes to try his luck with Harlequins, will not be free to play for them until the end of the season.

Quins have, however, announced two other high-profile acquisitions. Davies's brother-in-law Phil Davies and another ex-Wales captain Robert Jones have signed registration forms which will permit them to appear for the London club in 120 days' time. Between them the No 8 and scrum-half have 100 Wales caps.

"I have been offered an excellent deal by Harlequins and although a lot can happen in 120 days I am confident things will work out," Jones said yesterday. After the failure of a previous attempt to sign Ieuan Evans, however, Dick Best, Quins' rugby director, is not holding his breath. "I remain sceptical; Welsh players are not in the habit of transferring to London," Best said yesterday.

Tim Rodber, speedily recovered from the shoulder injury that forced his early departure from the England-South Africa match, will lead the Midlands against Western Samoa at Leicester on Saturday. With the availability of Leicester and other players including Rodber, wholesale changes are made from the side who have won both their Divisional Championship matches.

Most obviously a half-dozen players from the host club, including the entire front row, win selection - though there is a degree of balance in the retention of Jim Quantrill of Rugby at full-back and the former Swansea wing Robert Subbiani of Bedford in preference to the Tigers John Liley and Steve Hackney.

MIDLANDS (v Western Samoa, Leicester, Saturday): J Quantrill (Rugby); R Subbiani (Bedford), M Allen (Northampton), R Robinson (Leicester), H Thorneycroft; P Grayson, M Dawson (Northampton); G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth (Leicester), J Phillips, M Bayfield, T Rodber (Northampton, capt), C Tarbuck, N Back (Leicester). Replacements: P Challinor (Harlequins), J Farr (Winnington Park), T Beddow (Northampton), N Webber (Moseley), I Skingsley (Bedford).

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