Rugby Union: Barnes fit for A team

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The Independent Online
STUART BARNES last night passed himself fit to play for England A against the All Blacks at Gateshead on Sunday. It is a game he needs,

after nearly a month's absence, to

determine whether he withstands Rob Andrew and retains his England place at outside-half against New Zealand in the Test at Twickenham on 27 November, writes Steve Bale.

Geoff Cooke, the England manager, has told Barnes it is not imperative for him to turn out for the A team but he wanted to know by yesterday whether the player's groin strain had healed. His last game was for Bath at Wasps on 9 October. 'I wouldn't even consider playing against a New Zealand XV if I was anything less than 100 per cent,' Barnes said. 'I've been training for the past four days with no ill effects except a little stiffness.'

The pressure is off slightly

because Cooke has now decided to announce only his squad, as well as an England Emerging Players squad to play New Zealand, on Monday rather than the actual England team. 'I don't really know whether I need to play or not; I don't really think about how selectors think,' Barnes added, with typical irreverence.

Another Lions stand-off, Craig Chalmers, will lead Scotland A against the All Blacks in Glasgow on Saturday week - his chance to prove his fitness for the Murrayfield Test on 20 November.

London's Divisional Championship decider against the South-West, scheduled for Wasps on Saturday, has been postponed indefinitely following day-long discussions yesterday involving Dudley Wood, secretary of the Rugby Football Union.

The South-West have 13 players in the England A squad and said they cannot raise a team. Earlier, 3 January, a Bank Holiday Monday, had been suggested as an alternative date, but London's players protested that they had arranged breaks in a rare spare weekend.

LONDON WELSH have sacked the former Wales captain John Dawes, their playing controller, and the ex-Wallaby Bill Calcraft, first- team coach. The struggling Fifth Division side's chairman, Rolph James, has also resigned. 'Our president, Vic Watkins, has become frustrated that we cannot dig ourselves out of this hole,' James said.