Rowell eyes Carling the kicker

Click to follow
The Independent Online
At last England have some problems on the pitch not just off it. Twickenham and the English Professional Rugby Union Clubs are to meet tomorrow for what is hoped to be the definitive peace summit to settle the long-running dispute between the clubs and the game's rulers in England. As a gesture of goodwill Epruc decided yesterday to postpone the proposed breakaway from the Rugby Football Union by a majority of its 24-member clubs. Those two items of off-field news were almost, but not quite, shouldered aside by what must be regarded as a welcome selection conundrum for the England manager, Jack Rowell.

Rowell's ideal side would not contain a recognised place-kicker. It left him, therefore, looking at the possibility of turning to his former captain, Will Carling, as a place-kicker. Carling has stated his desire this season to play at stand-off for his country - a role he has filled twice for Harlequins. He will not be given the No 10 shirt by Rowell, but there is every chance Carling could be England's place-kicker when they take on Italy at Twickenham on 23 November. Carling, whose 53 points in 66 international appearances have come courtesy of 12 tries, has been Harlequins recognised goal-kicker this season and his 70-odd points have helped his side head the Courage League First Division.

He is the fourth-highest scorer in the country and since the three men above him Jon Callard, Gareth Rees and John Liley, were not at yesterday's England squad session at Bisham Abbey, Rowell was left with very little choice when it came to looking for a goal-kicker.

If he decides to ignore Paul Grayson, the present incumbent there is no other obvious candidate. Given that Rowell would also like to pick Tim Stimpson at full-back and Mike Catt at stand-off - neither of whom is a recognised place-kicker - it was no great surprise to hear the England manager say: "The temptation is to pick your best footballing team, but pragmatics say entering a serious game, let alone an international, without a proven place kicker is a risk. Will is just getting into it. It's difficult enough on the training pitch, but in the context of a game where pressure is on, it's another thing entirely."

Tellingly, Rowell added: "We would not doubt Will Carling's bottle in any way, no matter how big the crowd or the occasion and every week that Will plays he is getting a lot of practice at goal-kicking with Harlequins. Let's see how far he gets."

Rowell, who reiterated he will not name the new England captain until the Epruc-RFU row has been settled, is not yet committed to anything regarding the England team.

One name that may well start cropping up more frequently at selection meetings is the former Bath wing Jim Fallon, who joined Leeds rugby league club in 1992 but returned to union during the summer and now plays for his first club, Richmond. When Rowell was coach at Bath, he was a big fan of the powerful Fallon. Yesterday he said: "I think Fallon would have played for England a couple of years ago. We'd like to think it wasn't too late for him now. But it will take him a while to get used to union again."

Fallon made no secret of what he wanted. "I'd like to get an England cap," said the 30-year-old who has five England A caps to his credit. "I thought my chance had gone. But I have not been brought into this training squad just for the experience."

Comments