Rugby Union: Doubt over Dallaglio's role

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The Independent Online
THE LAST time Lawrence Dallaglio played a game of rugby, it was in front of a 60,000 plus cup final audience at Twickenham. His likely return for Wasps against Swansea this weekend will generate rather less interest at the turnstiles - a good 90 per cent less, in fact - but last season's England captain still wields enough clout to ensure the presence of a national selector at Loftus Road.

Dallaglio has fully recovered from the shoulder condition that denied him the opportunity, if that is the right word, to tour all three southern hemisphere superpowers during the summer. Indeed, he will be in more discomfort from burning ear syndrome following the sharp criticism aimed in his direction by Clive Woodward, the England coach, who was flabbergasted by the versatile flanker's decision to play through his injury in a futile attempt to earn some silverware for his under-achieving club.

There is not a chance of a fit Dallaglio being omitted from Woodward's first-choice side, even though Ben Clarke's resurgent form and Richard Hill's return from back surgery has confused the back row selection. However, Dallaglio's grip on the captaincy depends on his hitting the ground running over the next three weeks.

Two other international Wasps, the stand-off Alex King and the second row Simon Shaw, are also expected to turn out in Sunday's "rebel" cross- border fixture after joining Dallaglio among the unavailables for last weekend's Premiership opener at Bath. King, who toured with England in a half-fit state, underwent his umpteenth knee operation in July, while Shaw, who missed the trip Down Under through back trouble, is also under consideration.

No one at Wasps is anticipating a sell-out on Sunday; the Londoners played a rather more meaningful Heineken Cup match against the same opposition last season and scarcely managed to fill one of Loftus Road's bars. But this weekend's other Anglo-Welsh encounter between Cardiff and Saracens at the Arms Park is on course to attract a 10,000 gate. "The telephone hasn't stopped ringing since the weekend, when our victory at Bedford obviously made a few people sit up and take notice," Gareth Davies, Cardiff's chief executive, said.

The Welshmen are poised to re-sign one of their favourite sons, the former international full-back, Mike Rayer, from Bedford before the end of the week. Rayer is a free agent after a prolonged contractual dispute.

There are no such squabbles over the transfer-listed Alex Codling's contract with Richmond. The England Under-21 cap has been rather too vocal on the subject of his selection, or lack of it, for the liking of his coach, John Kingston, who said yesterday: "Any player not totally positive and committed to Richmond will be moved on."