Rowell returns to Underwood

Rugby Union
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The Independent Online
Tony Underwood had double cause for celebration yesterday. Not only did Jack Rowell, the England coach, recall the Newcastle wing to a 23-man squad for the international with Argentina on Saturday week, but he also waited until Jonah Lomu was well out of the way before doing so. Sighs of relief all round.

Underwood has not played Test rugby since conceding four tries to his New Zealand nemesis in Cape Town 18 months ago. It remains to be seen whether Rowell completes his rehabilitation by giving him a starting place - he will name his line-up on Monday - but the 27-year-old's pace would be of undeniable value to an England back division worryingly short of that all-important commodity.

If Rowell feels inclined to tinker with the side after last weekend's defeat at the hands of the New Zealand Barbarians - and he should more than tinker with the midfield - Jeremy Guscott remains the most likely addition, possibly at the expense of Will Carling. But Underwood is now in a prime position to challenge Adedayo Adebayo for the left-wing berth and it will be no surprise to see him back in the limelight in time for the start of the Five Nations.

Although Underwood has played most of his international rugby on the right wing, it would be savagely hard of Rowell to turn his back on Jon Sleightholme, who produced a class finish to score one of England's two tries against the New Zealanders. Besides, Sleightholme needs his Test place more than most because it is the only way he can get a game; his club selectors at Bath have again preferred Jason Robinson for this weekend's league match with Harlequins.

England also named three contrasting A teams for next week's hectic second- string schedule. Three games in four days against Argentina, the Junior Springboks and Queensland give the selectors ample opportunity to weigh up the available talent and the programme offers important opportunities to a handful of outstanding prospects.

Richard Hill, the Saracens' open-side flanker, faces both the Pumas and the Australians and two strong performances could persuade Rowell to juggle his senior back row, which lacks a natural breakaway element. The same is true at outside-half. Paul Grayson, last year's Test stand-off, gets a chance to impress along with Rob Liley of Leicester and, intriguingly, Mark Mapletoft of Gloucester.

Organisers of the Heineken European Cup have confirmed that Leicester's semi-final with holders Toulouse will take place at Welford Road on 4 January while Brive entertain Cardiff 24 hours later. If the final turns out to be an all-French affair, it will probably be held in Bordeaux on 25 January. Any other pairing will mean a final at the National Stadium in Cardiff on the same date.

ENGLAND SQUAD (v Argentina, Twickenham, 14 Dec): Backs: T Stimpson (Newcastle), J Sleightholme (Bath), W Carling (Harlequins), P de Glanville (Bath capt), A Adebayo (Bath), M Catt (Bath), A Gomarsall (Wasps), J Guscott (Bath), A King (Wasps), K Bracken (Saracens), T Underwood (Newcastle). Forwards: G Rowntree (Leicester), M Regan (Bristol), J Leonard (Harlequins), M Johnson (Leicester), S Shaw (Bristol), T Rodber (Northampton), L Dallaglio (Wasps), C Sheasby (Wasps), B Clarke (Richmond), R Hardwick (Coventry), P Greening (Gloucester), V Ubogu (Bath).

ENGLAND A (v Argentina, Northampton, 10 Dec): N Beal (Northampton); D Luger (Harlequins), A Blyth (Newcastle), W Greenwood (Leicester), I Hunter (Northampton); P Grayson (Northampton), M Dawson (Northampton); M Volland (Northampton), R Cockerill (Leicester), D Garforth (Leicester), G Archer (Newcastle), D Sims (Gloucester), M Corry (Bristol), A Diprose (Saracens, capt), R Hill (Saracens). Replacements: J Ewens (Bath), M Mapletoft (Gloucester), N Walshe (Harlequins), N Webber (Moseley), R Kellam (London Irish), W Davidson (Harlequins). Travelling reserves: M Perry (Bath), C Murphy (West Hartlepool).

ENGLAND A (v South Africa A, Gloucester, 11 Dec): C Catling (Gloucester); B Johnson (Army and Newbury), J Baxendell (Sale), N Greenstock (Wasps), S Bromley (Harlequins); R Liley (Leicester), A Healey (Leicester); K Yates (Bath), S Mitchell (Wasps), J Mallett (Bath), D Grewcock (Coventry), R Fidler (Gloucester), G Allison (Harlequins), S Ojomoh (Bath, capt), R Jenkins (Harlequins). Replacements: J Alexander (Esher), J Harris (Coventry), S Benton (Gloucester), K Brooking (Exeter), W Green (Easps), P Anglesea (Orrell). Travelling reserve: P Vickery (Gloucester).

ENGLAND A (v Queensland, Gateshead, 13 DEC): J Mallinder (Sale); D Luger (Harlequins), W Greenwood (Leicester), A Blyth (Newcastle), J Fallon (Richmond); M Mapletoft (Gloucester), M Dawson (Northampton capt); M Volland (Northampton), R Cockerill (Leicester), N Webber (Moseley), C Murphy (West Hartlepool), D Sims (Gloucester), M Corry (Bristol), A Diprose (Saracens), R Hill (Saracens). Replacements: J Ewens (Bath), M Perry (Bath), N Walshe (Harlequins), R Kellam (London Irish), W Green (Wasps), W Davidson (Harlequins).