Rowell sets date to name new captain

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The Independent Online
The England coach, Jack Rowell, has chosen Guy Fawkes night to launch the career of his new England captain in the hope that he rockets to the same success enjoyed by Will Carling.

A day later, next Wednesday, Rowell will follow up by announcing the rest of the side to face Italy at Twickenham on 23 November.

The betting is that the leadership will stay in London, with Harlequins' Jason Leonard and Wasps' Lawrence Dallaglio the joint favourites.

Rowell's announcement is overdue in rugby terms but he has kept the name of the new man under wraps for a month after declaring at an early England training session: "The selectors have made their choice, but neither the player nor the Rugby Union committee know who it is.

"I want to make it public only when the dispute at the top is settled. I don't want the player put in an invidious position of being asked his opinion on the politics."

Back in late September, it looked as though the row between the Rugby Football Union and English Professional Rugby Union Clubs was close to being settled. Now that it rumbles endlessly on, Rowell has no option but to reveal his man.

The leader will be under orders to concentrate on the rugby, but Leonard, Dallaglio and the other candidates are all too sharp to be indiscreet. Even so, the newcomer will have a mere 18 days to grow into the job. If it is Dallaglio, he will have no need brush up on his Italian for his debut as he is bilingual from his Italian father.

Dallaglio has been in the squad for less than a year, while Leonard has missed only one Test since 1990.

It is a case of experience opposed to youthful dynamism, with the names of Tim Rodber, Ben Clarke and Phil de Glanville having been floated when it was clear that Carling's long reign was ending. But neither Rodber nor De Glanville was first choice last March and Clarke is playing in League Two.

You have to go back to Fiji in 1988 to find a non-London player in charge. Bristol's Richard Harding was then given the job in an injury emergency, won the Test and was never chosen again. Wasps' Rob Andrew twice stood in for Carling.

Carling's successor will have a lot to live up to. Carling who coincidentally made his captaincy debut on 5 November 1988, amassed 44 wins in 59 Tests before retiring as England won the Five Nations' Championship last March.

The staged announcement at Twickenham next week symbolises the growing interest in England rugby. In 1988, Geoff Cooke, then manager, ended the year of five captains by casually announcing that he had appointed his youngest player for the Test against Australia and it took years for Carling to become high profile. The 1996 version will have instant fame and face the outside pressures that go with the job.

As a prelude to the big revelations next week, Rowell will tomorrow deliver another big training squad for next Wednesday's session at Bisham Abbey. It is expected again to number around 45 to comprise the international and A-team squads.

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