Rugby Union: De Glanville's second chance

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THE LAST time Phil de Glanville led his country against a team of all-stars, those stars were dressed in Wallaby gold and blew ugly great holes in the Bath centre's hard-earned reputation as a defensive general of uncommon ability. That was in Sydney, a little over two years ago. In Liverpool on Tuesday night he will finally have an opportunity to put the worst 80 minutes of his captaincy career behind him.

In the temporary absence of Martin Johnson, who will sit out England's penultimate World Cup warm-up match against the Premiership All-Star XV at Anfield, De Glanville has been asked to re-shoulder the burden. It is certainly a significant move by Clive Woodward, who has ignored the more recent captaincy experience of both Matt Dawson and Lawrence Dallaglio.

De Glanville looked utterly washed up in the aftermath of that 1997 Cook Cup match in Australia, which signalled the end of Jack Rowell's tenure as England coach. Will Greenwood, his rival inside centre, had proved a big hit on the preceding Lions tour - a trip for which the Bath man was not selected - and when Woodward marked his accession by appointing Dallaglio as his main man, the writing was on the wall. Yet cussed determination and an admirable work ethic, combined with the odd timely injury to others, gave De Glanville a foot in the door. The door is now wide open.

At Anfield he will anchor an experimental back division featuring the Northampton full-back Nick Beal on the right wing - Woodward has chosen only two specialist wings in his 30-man World Cup party - and Greenwood, the most obvious threat to his own Test place, at outside centre. Jason Leonard and Richard Cockerill join the outstanding Phil Vickery in what may yet be the coach's preferred front row, while Garath Archer gets a first run at lock.

As for the All-Stars... well, best of luck, chaps. Tim Stimpson, the Leicester full-back jettisoned from Woodward's World Cup squad on Monday evening, will captain a 26-man party featuring only three overseas players - Richie Tombs and Pat Howard of Australia, plus Garry Pagel of South Africa - amid a swathe of Premiership journeymen. Some of them, the Josh Lewseys and Matt Moores and Lewis Moodys, were thrown to the wolves on last summer's tour of the southern hemisphere and have not featured in red rose circles since. Others, like Jim Naylor of Newcastle and Steve Diamond of Sale, qualify for gnarled veteran status.

If there is a question mark over the authenticity of the Anfield fixture, there was no mistaking the 24-carat kidology flying between Dublin and Sydney yesterday. Ireland and Australia, the two big guns in Pool E of the forthcoming World Cup, were playing all sorts of mind games with each other as they looked ahead to their match at Lansdowne Road on 10 October.

Warren Gatland, the former All Black who coaches the Irish, told a New Zealand radio station that he might withhold some of his better players from the Wallaby game, on the basis that the winners of the group will face a harder road to the semi-finals of the tournament than the second- placed side. "It would be naive not to look at every possibility, every conceivable permutation of results," he said. "There is no doubt that the team finishing second in our pool would have an easier route and one possible scenario might be that we choose to rest one or two against Australia."

All of which made his Wallaby counterpart splutter. Aware that the Pool E winners face a likely quarter-final with the Welsh in Cardiff, but amazed at Gatland's comments, Rod Macqueen replied: "I'd be surprised and disappointed if the Irish went through with it. I'd find it extremely hard to suggest to a player that he didn't perform to the best of his ability."

World Cup squads,

digest, page 27