Rugby Union: De Glanville left in cold by Lions

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Four months ago, the Rugby Football Union considered Phil de Glanville's succession to the England captaincy to be worthy of a fanfare more majestic than anything heard at Westminster Abbey or Covent Garden. Yesterday, it was more a case of the Piano Concerto No 1 by Les Dawson as the Bath centre attempted to work out how he had managed to hit so many wrong notes in so short a time.

De Glanville's omission from a 62-man Lions squad - from which the 35 players to tour South Africa this summer is likely to be drawn -was not the only shock delivered by Fran Cotton, his coach, Ian McGeechan and the former Scotland coach, Jim Telfer, on the selection panel, but it generated far more voltage than any of the others. It was always possible to make out a case against his being included in the final party, for the likely midfield quartet of Allan Bateman, Scott Gibbs, Jeremy Guscott and the uncapped Will Greenwood oozes class. This, though, was a real kick in the tender parts.

While his public reaction was characteristically phlegmatic - "Selectors have their own views about players; all you can do is keep playing as well as possible and not get too het up about it" - De Glanville must privately be wondering by what strange criteria Nigel Davies of Wales, Jonathan Bell of Ireland and Alan Tait of Scotland were judged his superiors.

According to Cotton, strong showings in next month's decisive Five Nations matches might yet earn De Glanville a seat on the plane to Johannesburg. De Glanville is not holding his breath, however. "They have left themselves a little bit of flexibility but I'm sure they will pare it down from this squad rather than add anybody else," he said, probably correctly.

Two fellow international backs, Jon Sleightholme and Tony Underwood, have also been passed over and with Will Carling preferring a combination of sun, sea and sand to one of Springboks, studs and stretchers this summer, the entire red rose threequarter line currently falls into the excess baggage category. Having put a pair of tries apiece past the Irish on Saturday, the England wings will be hugely entertained by Cotton's sense of timing, if not his decision-making.

There will be a sense of grievance in Wales, too. Not only has Jonathan Davies been ignored - clearly, Messiah status means as little to Cotton and company as to the current Welsh hierarchy - but also Colin Charvis, the muscular open-side flanker from Swansea, and, astonishingly, Arwel Thomas, whose instinctive touch play harks back to a golden age when Lions teams won series rather than sympathy.

No fewer than 24 of those named, almost a tour party in itself, are not regarded as first-choice Five Nations players by the various coaches and selectors of the individual home unions. Of those, three of England's 27-strong contingent are uncapped: Greenwood, the Leicester centre and England A captain, Jim Mallinder, who leads the fast-improving Sale from full-back, and Martin Corry, the Bristol wing and skipper.

If that particular selection principle comes as little surprise - Cotton and McGeechan always threatened to go outside of national squads in search of players capable of performing in a specific manner - the extent of their non-Five Nations draft will raise more than a few eyebrows. When Jack Rowell, the England coach, was asked last week how many potential English Lions lay outside the 21 chosen for the Ireland game, he could think of only three. Yesterday, the figure came out at 11.

McGeechan has been working on his tactical approach since last summer and his conclusions are becoming increasingly apparent. The presence of strong, physical wide runners such as Adedayo Adebayo, John Bentley and Gareth Thomas among the wings suggests that the emphasis will be on raw power.

"We have a different philosophy from many national managers in terms of how best to beat South Africa; for one thing, size is especially important out there," Cotton said. "There is still time for other players to force their way in, but it is up to those left out to prove they can fit in with our philosophy. Although the selection process will continue for another four to six weeks, I would hope that the majority of the final tour party would come from this 62."

The selectors have included a number of injured players who may yet recover in time to travel. Simon Geoghegan, the Irish wing, and his front-row countryman, Keith Wood, fall into that group, as does Matt Dawson, the scrum-half from Northampton (who boast the biggest single club contribution with seven) and Phil Greening, the young Gloucester hooker, who withdrew from the England trip to Dublin last week because of knee ligament problems.

The squad will attend a training session at Birmingham on 11 March, before the final selection meeting a fortnight later.

BRITISH LIONS SQUAD (summer tour of South Africa; 35 players will be selected on 2 April to comprise final tour squad): Full backs: N Jenkins (Pontypridd and Wal), T Stimpson (Newcastle and Eng), N Beal (Northampton and Eng), J Staples (Harlequins and Irl), J Mallinder (Sale). Wings: A Adebayo (Bath and Eng), J Bentley (Newcastle and Eng), S Geoghegan (Bath and Irl), K Logan (Stirling Co and Sco), G Thomas (Bridgend and Wal), I Evans (Llanelli and Wal), D Hickie (St Mary's and Irl). Centres: A Bateman (Richmond and Wal), J Bell (Northampton and Irl), S Gibbs (Swansea and Wal), J Guscott (Bath and Eng), A Tait (Newcastle and Sco), N Davies (Llanelli and Wal), W Greenwood (Leicester). Stand-offs: P Grayson (Northampton and Eng), G Townsend (Northampton and Sco), C Chalmers (Melrose and Sco), M Catt (Bath and Eng), D Humphreys (London Irish and Irl). Scrum-halves: K Bracken (Saracens and Eng), B Redpath (Melrose and Sco), M Dawson (Northampton and Eng), A Healey (Leicester and Eng), A Gomarsall (Wasps and Eng), R Howley (Cardiff and Wal). Props: J Davies (Neath and Wal), J Leonard (Harlequins and Eng), N Popplewell (Newcastle and Ire), D Young (Cardiff and Wal), R Hardwick (Coventry and Eng), G Rowntree (Leicester and Eng), P Wallace (Saracens and Irl), T Smith (Watsonians and Sco). Hookers: M Regan (Bristol and Eng), P Greening (Gloucester and Eng), K Wood (Harlequins and Irl), J Humphreys (Cardiff and Wal). Locks: S Shaw (Bristol and Eng), M Bayfield (Northampton and Eng), G Archer (Newcastle and Eng), M Johnson (Leicester and Eng), J Davidson (London Irish and Irl), P Johns (Saracens and Irl), C Quinnell (Richmond and Wal), G Weir (Newcastle and Sco). Loose forwards: D Corkery (Bristol and Irl), R Hill (Saracens and Eng), I Smith (Gloucester and Sco), R Wainwright (Watsonians and Sco), L Dallaglio (Wasps and Eng), M Corry (Bristol), D McBride (Ballymena and Irl), E Miller (Leicester and Irl), T Rodber (Northampton and Eng), S Quinnell (Richmond and Wal), B Clarke (Richmond and Eng), G Jones (Cardiff and Wal).

Comments