Rugby Union: Clohessy gamble backfires on Lions

Rugby Union
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Fran Cotton and his fellow high rollers on the Lions selection panel yesterday discovered to their acute embarr- assment that their gamble on Peter Clohessy, perhaps the most controversial choice for the three- Test tour of South Africa, had backfired, writes Chris Hewett. Clohessy declared himself a non-runner - quite literally - for the trip after failing to survive the opening training session at the squad's base camp in Surrey.

Paul Wallace, the 25-year-old Saracens tight-head prop who succeeded Clohessy in Ireland's international front row following the latter's 26- week ban for stamping on a Frenchman's head last year, will travel in his countryman's place. According to Mark Evans, the Saracens director of rugby, Wallace was a better bet anyway. "He's fit, fast and bang in form," he said. "If he maintains the performance levels he produced in the last month of the league season, he'll be a sensation in South Africa."

Clohessy, a senior citizen at 31, had been playing for Queensland in the Super 12 tournament in recent weeks but was suffering from back problems when he received the Lions call. Although specialists in Australia passed him fit to travel, it was crystal clear yesterday that he was in no condition to square up to the Springboks.

There were further injury problems yesterday for Jack Rowell, the England coach, before the two-Test tour of Argentina, which also begins next week. Garath Archer, the teak-tough Newcastle lock whose temperament is only marginally less combustible than Clohessy's, pulled out of the trip with neck trouble and left Rowell in search of a third replacement second-row specialist. John Fowler and Martin Bayfield cried off last week and were replaced by Dave Baldwin and Danny Grewcock.