Rugby Union: Dallaglio puts stars in shade

England XV 67 Premiership All-Stars 14
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The Independent Online
WHEN THE real world dawns in a little over three weeks' time, the England front row will not shunt the New Zealand scrummage all the way back to Auckland, Nick Beal is unlikely to carry three heavyweight Tongans over their own line to claim a try in the right corner, and Joe Worsley cannot even hope to sell a dummy that will fool the entire Italian back division. But Lawrence Dallaglio may, just may, use the only stage that counts to wreak the kind of havoc he inflicted on the walking misnomers called the Premiership Allstars here last night.

At times, Dallaglio flew directly in the face of the sentiments contained in Liverpool's favourite sporting anthem and walked entirely alone. Or rather, he ran alone, extremely quickly and with a degree of vigour that bordered on the absurd. The most striking aspect of his third successive exercise in solo virtuosity was that he had no great need of help or support, although he received plenty of both from his back-row colleagues as England recovered from a strangely sheepish opening 15 minutes. In this mood, he will give the All Blacks one almighty tear-up at Twickenham on 9 October.

Predictably, there was nothing much else to be gleaned from yesterday's exercise in one-sided futility. There were a few flashes of ingenuity from Alex King and enough old-fashioned dog from the increasingly canine Pat Howard to fill a kennel, but the invitation forwards had about as much chance of surviving the bump and grind as Ann Widdecombe has of landing herself a role as a Bond girl. The Premiership selectors could not even find a full-time hooker to start the proceedings and Perry Freshwater, the second-string Leicester prop, did well to hang in as long as he did.

At least Clive Woodward, the England coach, was guaranteed a decent night's sleep, for there was no new information to set his tactical brain whirring into the small hours. Austin Healey, sharp as you like on the left wing, scored pretty much with every touch, and it was wholly of a piece with this half-baked occasion that Martin Corry should claim a five-pointer within 20 seconds of taking the field. It was only when Phil de Glanville retired early in the final quarter - an unwelcome departure that forced all manner of positional jiggery-pokery in the red rose ranks - that the opposition exploited the occasional crack in the white wall.

The Liverpool public deserved something far more meaningful, having turned up in encouraging numbers. The Kop, what is left of it amid the red seating, was never going to be in full voice, and few locals wandered along expecting to see anything remotely as sexy as their treasured Fowler-Owen double act. But the Merseysiders showed willing, bless them, and while the alleged Allstars did likewise, those on the pitch ought to have offered rather more than those in the stands. Not for the first time in recent history, the Rugby Football Union sold its public seriously short.

England XV: Tries Healey 4, Dallaglio 2, Beal, Worsley, Garforth, Corry; Conversions Grayson 7; Penalty: Grayson. Premiership XV; Tries Allen, Balding. Conversions King 2.

ENGLAND XV: M Perry (Bath); N Beal (Northampton), P De Glanville (Bath, capt), W Greenwood (Leicester), A Healey (Leicester); P Grayson (Northampton), M Dawson (Northampton); J Leonard (Harlequins), R Cockerill (Leicester), P Vickery (Gloucester), G Archer (Bristol), T Rodber (Northampton), J Worsley (Wasps), L Dallaglio (Wasps), N Back (Leicester).

Replacements: M Catt (Bath) for Greenwood, h-t; D Garforth (Leicester) for Vickery, h-t; D Grewcock (Saracens) for Rodber, h-t; G Rowntree (Leicester) for Leonard, 53; M Corry (Leicester) for Back, 53; D Luger (Saracens) for Dawson, 59; N McCarthy (Gloucester) for De Glanville, 63.

PREMIERSHIP ALLSTARS: P Sampson (Wasps); J Naylor, M Shaw (both Newcastle), P Howard (Leicester, capt), B Johnson (Gloucester); A King (Wasps), J Bramhall; G Pagel (both Northampton), P Freshwater (Leicester), W Green (Wasps), H Vyvyan (Newcastle), C Murphy (Sale), P Anglesea (Sale), A Balding (Leicester), A Morris (Sale). Replacements: T Windo (Worcester) for Pagel, h-t; J Fowler (Manchester) for Murphy, h-t; P Glanville (Gloucester) for Anglesea, h-t; I Sanders (Gloucester) for Bramhall, 48; M Volland (Northampton) for Green 59; M Allen (Northampton) for Johnson, 59; J Clark (Sale) for Freshwater, 61; M Moore (Sale) for Howard, 73.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).