Rugby Union: Andrew put on hold after all

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The Independent Online
ON HIS imminent return from France, Rob Andrew will be subject to the full four-month rigour of English competitive rugby's qualification rules, the Senior Clubs' Association decided yesterday.

But at least no one other than the selectors can keep the England stand-off from playing internationally - more than can be said for the England hooker Brian Moore, whose lingering shoulder injury yesterday caused him to withdraw from the squad for next Saturday's Canada match at Wembley.

Andrew is about to rejoin Wasps after concluding an 11-month stint working and playing in Toulouse and, quite properly, no exemption has been made in his distinguished case. At the same time, the period for which he is ineligible for competitive rugby is less harsh than it seems, since all he will miss are two league games and two cup rounds.

'I was basing my mid-season planning on being banned from competition for the maximum 120 days,' he said in Toulouse yesterday. 'I'd rather have been playing league and cup rugby earlier but I can live with this decision. It could have been worse.'

In the meantime, Andrew can add to his 48 caps for England, represent London in the Divisional Championship and play for Wasps in friendly and second-team fixtures. He will also be available for England's new year training weekend in Lanzarote, but will not become eligible until Wasps meet London Irish on 13 February.

Moore's injury will not stop him from appearing for Harlequins against Bedford on international day. 'I had a chat with Geoff Cooke and, though I'm certain I can be 99 per cent fit, we agreed it would be wrong to present myself not fully recovered,' Moore said.

Cooke, the England manager, is likely to promote John Olver for his third cap in Moore's stead when the team are named tomorrow. 'On the day of the England match I am determined to be in the Harlequins pack as my build- up to complete fitness for the Test against South Africa on 14 November,' Moore said. When, selection permitting, he will win his 41st cap, one short of John Pullin's record for an England hooker.

Moore deliberately withdrew before England's training session in Wolverhampton tomorrow. 'I did not want to cloud the issue when I couldn't guarantee being in my usual state of fitness,' he said. 'It's an important game and there's no point in waiting till the last minute when there are question marks about my condition. Now the squad can prepare knowing that the work is being done with the team that will actually play against the Canadians.'

Walker on the run, page 47