Rowell frustrated by lack of English talent

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The Independent Online
Such is the dearth of outsiders realistically challenging for the post- World Cup England team that Jack Rowell may be forced to postpone the necessary generational change longer than he would ideally want.

This was the message of the manager's remarks at Twickenham yesterday when he repeated that he would not be hurried into either confirming or denying Will Carling as captain, though in deference to Carling's personal problems Rowell has decided tonight's first England session of the season at Marlow will be held in private.

This had not been his intention before Will and Julia Carling separated, but then nor had it been his preference to continue with the old guard whom Carling has captained. The one selection certainty is that Rowell will restore a proper open-side flanker to the England back row and that will entail a direct confrontation between Ben Clarke and Dean Richards for the No 8 position.

As things stand, Rowell appears to favour Rory Jenkins of Harlequins over the perennial pretender, Neil Back, and he is also contemplating the inclusion of David Pears as the outside-half successor to Rob Andrew.

"Half the current England team will disappear in the relatively short term," Rowell said. "We need to have people ready to come in and take over but there aren't many people who've been knocking on the door. Look at the development squad who went to Australia and ask: who is going to play for England? We have a paucity of numbers."

Pragmatism may force him to go in against South Africa on 18 November with the same familiar players who have served England so well and so long. And that, as the manager admits, would mean the more dynamic style of play he has endlessly preached would again be postponed.

"We're going to need to replace key people in order to do it, and that's a sensitive thing," he said. In this context - though the manager would never say so publicly - Andrew would have to be the prime candidate. Hence Rowell's extreme interest in Pears's form and fitness after years of incessant injury.

"Once Stuart Barnes retired, it might have been good for the claret suppliers but it showed how hard-up we are for No 10s," he said in reference to the Bath bon vivant. "David might not have the Barnes computer in his head but he is a naturally gifted player. I'm delighted that he is lasting games and, even more important, with the rugby he is helping Harlequins to produce."

Pears's ability to get his line moving, in conjunction with a back-row change, might even suffice for now to bring Rowell's plans to partial fruition. "Last season we started with Clarke, Richards and Rodber. I didn't think that would last the Five Nations but they did handsomely so they stayed together.

"But Clarke is not a natural open side and Clarke and Richards have to vie as to who is No 8 this season. We need an open side who is going to get around with greater facility if we're going to play the game we aspire to and Jenkins is doing very well. This season we need a No 6 and No 8 and an out-and-out No 7."