Rowell leaves options open over Dawe injury

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The Independent Online
England may have to go in against Scotland in Saturday's Grand Slam match at Twickenham with their fifth-choice hooker - a tiro in the position - on the bench if Graham Dawe has to withdraw with the calf strain that caused him to be carried from yesterday's training session in Roehampton. A decision will be taken today.

Dawe, who won four caps in 1987, is due to warm his backside for the 24th time - still eight short of the least-wanted record in English rugby held by his predecessor as reserve hooker, John Olver. To the frustration of both, in all his 57 England appearances Brian Moore has never needed replacing and in the end Olver was glad to gain three caps.

The situation has been complicated because the England A team are in Durban to play Natal on Saturday and Jack Rowell is still considering whether to recall either of the hookers, Mark Regan and Richard Cockerill, who are in South Africa.

Next in line is Bath's former England Under-21 captain, Gareth Adams, who played for Emerging England against another South African province, Northern Transvaal, last Wednesday but has been a hooker only since making the move from flanker at the start of the season.

Otherwise the England session was undisturbed apart from Rob Andrew's minor ankle injury - so minor that it did not prevent him going through his kicking routines. The Scotland forwards and half-backs started their build-up with practice at Murrayfield last night. The team fly to London after today's full session and will train at the London Scottish ground in Richmond tomorrow.

As England began their pre-match preparations at the Bank of England ground Rowell, their manager-coach, was asked not only to contemplate the possibility of coaching England to a Grand Slam in his very first Five Nations season but to place this game in its wider, World Cup context.

Rowell, who if you read between the lines is rather unflattering about where England rugby had got to when he succeeded Geoff Cooke, would for now prefer to think no further than Saturday - even to the extent of declining, yet, to name Will Carling as his World Cup captain.

"Grand Slams are not littered around in rugby union history for anyone," he said. "Therefore this match has to be an end in itself, a self-contained, enthralling competition. On the other hand, if we can clinch the deal on Saturday, it will catapult us to the World Cup.''

There speaks Rowell the high-powered businessman who will never be satisfied no matter how well England play. "Given the mentality of this England squad, I don't think we will ever get it right - which means there is always the question, where do we go next? Last season their win record was respectable but where was England rugby going?''

Rowell anticipates the month's break since the Wales game will assist in providing an answer. "It's been convenient to take a breather, have a look at things and do some more work on the rugby we aspire to, which is to add more width to the power game we have at the moment and bring in the people wider out like Guscott, the Underwoods and our strike full- back.''

As for Carling, Rowell fooled no one when he suggested he had not thought about his World Cup captain. "We shouldn't really over-focus on the captaincy," he said. "This is about England playing Scotland.''

However, Rowell mysteriously added: "My personal view is that whatever surrounded his appointment to the captaincy when he was 23 he is a better captain now than he was then - and needs to be.''

n Alan Davies, the Wales coach, admitted yesterday he faces "the bullet" if his side lose the Five Nations wooden-spoon decider with Ireland on Saturday. "We are under a fair bit of pressure," Davies said. "All the players know that, but there is no pressure on them. I'm the one that's going to get the bullet if we lose."

Five Nations focus, page 37

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