Rugby Union: Andrew displays old touch

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The Independent Online
Wasps. . . . . .45

Gloucester. . . .8

THE good news for England is that Rob Andrew had a rare spring in his step as he opened his Courage League season and the countdown to the World Cup next summer. Maybe it is the retirement of his arch-rival Stuart Barnes and the absence of any other real contenders for the England outside-half berth. Maybe it was just the late summer sunshine here. But Andrew played with splendid abandon, running the ball at almost every opportunity and inspiring Wasps to a comprehensive walloping of Gloucester.

And, as ever, his kicking from the hand was impeccable. He scored two tries and kicked two penalties and two conversions, and at 31 years of age and with 59 England caps, he is showing all his old enthusiasm for the game.

Wasps took their cue from Andrew and tried to attack throughout the game. To their great credit, Gloucester did their best to match them, jettisoning their traditional forward-based play in favour of a more fluid approach, but they were rarely able to contain Wasps' rampant backs.

There was keen interest in how Canada's World Cup captain Norman Hadley would fare in his first Courage League match for Wasps. At 6ft 7in and 20 stone-plus, he is a formidable sight, and with that amount of weight to carry it was perhaps not surprising that he rarely left the ground at the line-outs: heavy lifting gear might be needed for that. But he cleaned up very tidily and was prominent in several early drives. It did not take him long to make his mark - on his counterpart Richard West's jaw, to be precise, with a right hook which went unnoticed by the referee Jim Pearson and both touch judges. Otherwise Hadley's long-delayed debut might have been brief indeed. West appeared more surprised than angered and proceeded to shine at the line-outs.

Andrew got off the mark in seconds, with a penalty after Gloucester went over the top after the kick-off, and Wasps never really looked back. Andrew and Mark Mapletoft exchanged two more penalties before another league debutant, Jon Ufton (the son of the former Kent cricketer Derek), standing in for Steve Pilgrim, scored a try on the right after good work by Nick Greenstock, who looks a terrific prospect.

Although playing against the wind in the second half, Wasps did much as they pleased, running the ball from deep inside their own half for six tries, cutting poor Gloucester to shreds. Lawrence Dallaglio went over on the left within a minute of the restart, Andrew scored two in 10 minutes including an individual effort when he charged down Tim Smith's attempt at a clearing kick, the centres Graham Childs and Damian Hopley picked up one apiece, and fittingly Greenstock finished off the rout with a try in the right-hand corner.

Gloucester's only try came from Simon Morris after a tremendous scything run from Paul Holford cutting across the field from the right wing before linking up with his centre. If this is an omen of the sort of rugby we will see in the league this season, it is a very good one.

Wasps: J Ufton; S Hunter, G Childs, D Hopley, N Greenstock; R Andrew, S Bates; G Holmes, K Dunn, I Dunston, M Greenwood, N Hadley, L Dallaglio, C Wilkins, D Ryan (capt).

Gloucester: M Mapletoft; P Holford, S Morris, B Maslen, M Nicholson; T Smith, B Fenley; P Jones, J Hawker, A Deacon (capt), D Sims, R West, P Glanville, I Smith, M Nicholls.

Referee: J J Pearson (RFU).

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