Rugby Union: Andrew's Twickenham sorrow

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IT WOULD have been an exquisite swan-song, but it would also have been an excruciating one. Rob Andrew thought long and hard about ignoring both the lingering discomfort of his recently dislocated left shoulder and the concern expressed by a legion of advisors, but eventually decided that the only intelligent course of action was to swallow his disappointment and rule himself out of this weekend's Tetley's Bitter Cup final at Twickenham. If Newcastle are to beat Wasps on Saturday, they will have to do it without their tactical touchstone.

"I want to play on next season - with Jonny Wilkinson away on World Cup duty it looks like I'll have to whether I like it or not - and while my shoulder has improved far more rapidly than I thought possible, another dislocation now would mean surgery and a long period of recuperation," said the former England outside-half yesterday. "The temptation to give it a go was massive, but there were plenty of people around here telling me not to be so stupid. And yes, my wife was very definitely one of them."

At 36 and counting, Andrew has almost certainly seen his last chance of knock-out glory slip away. The irony of his situation is almost too bitter for words: the prospect of a last, poignant Twickenham hurrah against the club he served with such distinction for more than a decade was effectively scuppered during last month's Premiership match against the same opposition, when he unsuccessfully attempted a match-saving tackle in injury time and found himself trapped beneath several hundredweight of Wasps beef.

"One way or another, I'm going to have to get used to influencing, or attempting to influence, things from the touchline rather than out there in the middle," he continued. "I'm not very good at watching, to be honest; I have such a passion for winning that I tend to get a little anxious." A little? Andrew was so wound up as the clock ticked down on Newcastle's important Premiership victory over Harlequins on Tuesday night that he had to be physically dissuaded from marching on to the Kingston Part pitch in his tracksuit.

Andrew is unlikely to name his starting line-up before tomorrow; Richard Arnold and Jim Naylor missed the Quins date with injury. Newcastle intend to field their strongest available side, though, despite the fact that European qualification is still gnawing away at the backs of their Geordie minds. "The cup is a great competition," insisted their selector-in-chief. "Yes, Europe is still a concern and we have a crucial game at Saracens next Thursday. But we'll get up for this one, too. The adrenalin will take care of that."

For Wasps, injury may take care of Kenny Logan, who has accounted for more than a third of their 134 points during the current cup run. Logan broke a small bone in his ankle during the Five Nations and his condition has recently deteriorated.