Rugby Union: A captain happy in the ranks

Tim Glover finds Phil de Glanville determined to enjoy life after demotion
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The Independent Online
WHEN Phil de Glanville planted the ball over the Irish line last week, his face, as he received confirmation of the try from the referee, was a picture, an image worthy of inclusion in the Rugby Football Union's museum. "There are not many things in life," de Glanville said, "better than scoring a try for England at Twickenham."

The moment was made all the sweeter by the fact that not only is he no longer considered a first-choice centre for his country but Jeremy Guscott, his more glamorous partner at Bath, failed to take several chances. Indeed, Guscott looked short of a gasket, a point picked up by his team-mates when he returned to the Recreation ground. "When are you going to start your speed training?" was a typically cool remark.

De Glanville, who will be 30 this year, has 30 caps, a tidy sum but not extravagant by today's standards and last week he came on as a replacement for Will Greenwood. In fact, he has spent more time on the bench than Judge Jeffries.

He has not had the kindest of bounces but nevertheless his temperament betrays no suspicion of dented pride. "I'd say that 95 per cent of my career consisted of high points," he said. The assessment seems a little on the high side.

A product of Bryanston, Durham University and Oxford University, de Glanville first captained Bath - deputising for John Hall - in the 1995 cup final and took over from the ubiquitous, five-star Will Carling as England captain the following year. However, that was under the reign of Jack Rowell, a close associate, and when he went so did de Glanville's captaincy. "Jack's situation was handled badly," de Glanville said, failing to add that his own has hardly been a bed of roses.

Ignored by the Lions last summer, de Glanville led England in Argentina and then drew the shortest of short straws with the impossible Test against Australia in Sydney, where England's Lions made an unwarranted stop.

In the inevitable defeat, de Glanville, who missed a couple of crucial tackles, was singled out for blame. "It was hard to integrate the Lions. They were finished after South Africa, they wanted to go home and quite right too. The most upsetting thing for me was that England, without 18 leading players, had enjoyed a very, very successful tour of Argentina and it was completely forgotten."

When Rowell was replaced by Clive Woodward, de Glanville lost the captaincy to Lawrence Dallaglio. "I wasn't really hurt about that. The thing about being captain is you can never switch off. I enjoyed it on the pitch, there was so much to do off it. With the wrangle between the RFU and the clubs there was a massive amount of politics. I have enjoyed this season much more. I have taken a backward step and been a bit more selfish. I'm looking after myself and my family rather than worrying about anybody else. It's funny. My form has been better, yet I've been put on the bench."

Like Woodward, de Glanville views the resignation of Fran Cotton from the England management with dismay. "Under Fran there has been a massive increase in resources and level of support for the national squad. The decision-making process was quicker. It's bad news if he's not involved."

De Glanville has enough to think about without worrying about others. There was the huge match with Saracens on Good Friday, which ended with an early, injury-enforced departure for him, and a critical defeat for his side, and, if he recovers, another cruncher at Richmond tomorrow. What a way to spend Easter. After all they have gone through, it's a minor miracle that Bath not only won the European Cup but have retained an interest in the Premiership. There was that infamous TV documentary, the departures of Brian Ashton and Hall and, by way of dessert, the Kevin Yates ear-biting affair. Yates, who was suspended for six months (it could be said that the victim, Simon Fenn, suffered a similar fate, ie half a year) will shortly resume training with Bath.

Five years ago de Glanville, who still sees Rowell, Ashton and Hall, was involved in a cause celebre when he was raked by the All Blacks. He received more stitches than a rugby ball and declared that it was not an accident. The scars have healed for de Glanville and Bath. "The club is being run pretty efficiently and as soon as we won the European Cup everybody relaxed," he said. "That suits the Bath style, but it would be a disaster if we don't defend in Europe."

De Glanville would like to tour with England this summer (although he has a few things to sort out with Woodward) and play in the World Cup next year. When the game turned pro he gave up his job, but he is still involved with management consultancy. Sometimes he uses the conference facilities at Twickenham, where clients are shown around the changing rooms.

The England squad now have individual lockers with their names on plaques. "Clive reminds us what will happen if we're dropped," de Glanville said. "A little man will unscrew our name from the wall and send it to us in the post."