Rugby Union: De Glanville gives calm leadership

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The Independent Online
Phil de Glanville may not be playing the most persuasive rugby of his career, but at least he is still thinking a good game. England's captain yesterday did his level best to stabilise the mood of his troops in advance of this weekend's hazardous Five Nations confrontation with Ireland in Dublin, appealing for a common-sense approach both on and off the pitch.

It has been an awkward few days for the Bath centre, who must be finding it far easier to captain the national side than to exercise any semblance of control over events at his own club.

The harassed English champions' decision to dump John Hall as their director of rugby on Tuesday came as an ill-timed and unpleasant surprise to the skipper, and he is beginning to doubt whether there is any such thing as a straightforward, trouble-free build-up to an international.

"I'm starting to get used to this," De Glanville said yesterday. "There seems to be some sort of upheaval before every England game. If it's not a problem at Bath, it's someone having a snipe at Jack Rowell's coaching. In the end, you just have to switch off from it and focus yourself on the matter in hand."

Easier said than done. Constant criticism of Rowell's contribution to the England cause, much of it from coaching predecessors, has prompted De Glanville to leap to the defence of his old mentor on several recent occasions and he was banging the same drum before yesterday's training session at Bisham Abbey.

"I think it's important that whoever the Rugby Football Union appoints as coach at the end of the Five Nations campaign is given the job right through to the World Cup in 1999," he said. "What is more, the coach needs to be full-time. There is no other way, now that the pressure to perform is so great.

"If the Rugby Football Union backs Jack - and I hope they do, because he is a shrewd man intellectually and possesses an outstanding rugby brain - it will be down to him as to whether he wants to make that sort of commitment. He has other things going on in his life and he would need to pare those back, but I think it would be very difficult indeed to find anyone with a better understanding of the game."

The clarity of De Glanville's thinking was also evident in his attitude to the severe physical test awaiting him and his side in Dublin.

"There are some very hard yards to be fought over at Lansdowne Road," he said. "No one is more aware of that than us and we're not getting carried away by the fact that we scored three tries in five minutes against the Scots a fortnight ago, gratifying though that was. In my view, it is damaging to over-react in rugby, either to defeat or to victory."

The French, legendary over-reactors when it comes to team selection, have made six changes for their match with Wales at the Parc des Princes in Paris. On this occasion, however, they cannot be accused of a knee- jerk approach; injury and suspension has forced them into the revamp of almost a third of their side.

Franck Tournaire, the prop forward unilaterally suspended for kicking Ireland's Allan Clarke in the face during the first round of Five Nations matches last month, is replaced by Jean-Louis Jordana, while Richard Castel gets a run in the back row in place of Philippe Benetton, who has a broken jaw.

Among the threequarters, Richard Dourthe and Laurent Leflamand come in at centre and wing in place of the indisposed Thomas Castaignede and Emile Ntamack respectively. The other changes are at half-back, where Brive's Philippe Carbonneau and Christophe Lamaison fill in for Fabien Galthie and Alain Penaud.

FRANCE (v Wales, Five Nations' Championship, Parc des Princes, Saturday): J-L Sadourny (Colomiers); L Leflamand (Bourgoin), R Dourthe (Dax), S Glas (Bourgoin), D Venditti (Brive); C Lamaison (Brive), P Carbonneau (Brive); F Pelous (Dax), A Benazzi (Agen, capt), R Castel (Beziers), H Miorin (Toulouse), O Merle (Montferrand), J-Louis Jordana (Toulouse), M Dal Maso (Agen), C Califano (Toulouse). Replacements: S Viars (Brive), D Aucagne (Pau), G Accoceberry (Begles-Bordeaux), O Magne (Dax), P Triep-Capdeville (Pau), M De Rougemont (Toulon).