Rugby Union: Diprose looks to 'old hands' for leadership

England's stand-in rugby union captain has issued his rallying cry for the first Test against Australia. Chris Hewett in Brisbane reports

IF a natural leader always knows his own mind, Tony Diprose is bright enough to realise that a problem shared is a problem solved. The Saracens No 8 spent last season's domestic Premiership and cup campaigns picking the brains of a veritable Cabinet-full of hardened decision makers - Francois Pienaar, Michael Lynagh and Philippe Sella were the support staff from heaven - but he may well discover this weekend that captaincy can also be a very lonely ordeal.

Asked to call the shots in the absence of the injured Matt Dawson, who had been handed the reins only as a result of Lawrence Dallaglio's shoulder problems and the various aches and pains affecting Martin Johnson and Tim Rodber, Diprose spent a humid afternoon in Brisbane insisting that his England charges possessed sufficient vim and vigour to give John Eales' Wallaby outfit a run for their Australia dollars in the first Test at the Suncorp Stadium on Saturday. "We wouldn't be here if we didn't consider ourselves capable of winning," he said in time-honoured fashion. "It's simply up to the experienced guys in the side to pull the new caps through."

And which experienced guys might they be? "I'll be looking to Richard Cockerill, Garath Archer, Graham Rowntree and Austin Healey, players who have felt the pressure of Test rugby and thrived on it. I know what it's like to be capped for the first time, as five of our side will be on this occasion; for the first 20 minutes, you don't really know what the hell is happening.

"Yes, I'm captain, but I can't spend the whole game worrying about the other 14 in the side. I have a performance of my own to worry about."

The only flaw in the Diprose philosophy is that Cockerill and company hardly fall into the "been there, done that, got the T-shirt" category. The withdrawal of Dawson with knee trouble and the consequent emergence of Scott Benton as England's fifth scrum-half in 13 outings leaves the tourists with just 72 caps between them. In stark contrast, four of Saturday's Wallabies - Eales, Tim Horan, Phil Kearns and David Wilson - have either passed the personal 50-cap milestone or will do by the end of the month.

So much for Rod Macqueen's portrayal of his Wallaby selection as fresh, innovative and, in some important respects, experimental. True, Steve Larkham is an unknown quantity at outside-half and there are first Test starts for Tom Bowman and Toutai Kefu in the back five of the pack. Compare them with England, though, and the Australians are bordering on the Tiresian.

Macqueen, the former ACT Brumbies tactician whose thoughtful stewardship of the national side may well bear fruit over the coming months, is certainly intent on putting years on his charges. Based in Caloundra, about 80 miles north of Brisbane on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, the Wallabies must make their way to training by mountain bike rather than the more customary luxury bus.

"Some of these blokes have spent the last couple of years in five-star hotel accommodation and we thought it might be useful to get them out of the plastic lifestyle and back to some normality," explained the coach, who inflicted so many press-ups on his players yesterday that they barely had the strength to turn a pedal.

Clive Woodward, Macqueen's English counterpart, was rather more laid back, even though Dawson's sudden unavailability must have left him wondering if he would ever escape the jurisdiction of Sod's Law. "People talk about us being under pressure, but to my way of thinking we're under no pressure whatsoever," he said. "There is a huge amount of enthusiasm for this contest. I think we'll be very competitive indeed on Saturday and I'm convinced we'll do English rugby proud.

"I'm more than happy with Tony as captain - it was a tough call to choose Matt above him in the first place - and I'm perfectly confident that Scott will prove a high-class replacement at scrum-half. We're pretty hopeful that Matt will be fit for the start of the New Zealand leg of the tour next week, but I'm not going to say now that he will be captain for the rest of the trip. That very much depends on what happens against the Wallabies. Believe me, we have a fresh young side just raring to go. I saw England's defeat in Sydney last year and, quite frankly, I think it was a mistake to select players who had just come off a hard Lions tour."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific