Rugby Union: England selectors ready for reshuffle: Rodber recalled

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The Independent Online
THE England selectors yesterday added three of their lately injured players to the 21 engaged at Murrayfield and it is fairly clear that if Tim Rodber is fit he stands every chance of returning to the back row against Ireland on Saturday week.

'I wouldn't have thought they are averse to making everyone sweat a bit and ask himself how well he played,' Don Rutherford, the Rugby Football Union technical director, speaking for the selectors, said at Twickenham.

The fortuitousness and manner of England's last-kick 15-14 victory over Scotland mean there are a number of players who cannot be sure of their place when the team announcement is made on Sunday. Hence Ian Hunter's and Nigel Redman's return as well as that of Rodber, who has had a hamstring injury. Dean Richards and Jeremy Guscott are still not ready for consideration.

Hunter plays full-back for Northampton, but it is as a wing that he is more likely to be considered even though landing the winning penalty does not leave Jonathan Callard feeling certain of his place. 'Someone said my second half was like J P R Williams and my first half was like Kenneth Williams,' the full- back had said.

The safe passage of Redman at lock for England A in Italy is especially welcome given the malfunction of England's line- out, but no one is exonerated. All the participants will be receiving a salutary reminder of their Murrayfield misadventure with a horror video being sent out from Twickenham this week.

There is plain dissatisfaction that England are failing to score tries - none in the last three matches - but Rutherford chose this moment to express another concern by lambasting the unpredictable way referees are handling international games. As it was England who were the beneficiaries of the decisive penalty, it was rather a good moment to do so.

'It is a total lottery playing international rugby with the refereeing as it is at the moment,' he said. 'One of the intentions of bringing southern- hemisphere referees to the north and northern-hemisphere referees to the south is to reach some consistency in the interpretation of laws, particularly those that relate to the tackle and ruck and maul. But I don't believe we have achieved that.

'I personally favour there being a select band of international referees to look after world rugby for a short period in order to set standards, and we don't even mind if we're not in it as long as we work from a central base and agree how certain key areas are going to be refereed.

'It is a consistent picture and maybe it is the challenge we face that the difference between sides is in the laws the referee referees, which side adapts to the referee quickest. In the next game you can clearly assume he will referee key areas differently from how Lindsay McLachlan did last Saturday.'

England may not have been enamoured of the New Zealander, who now moves on to take Wales v France on Saturday week, but against Ireland they will have Joel Dume, the Bordeaux caterer who upset them when he refereed their defeat by Wales last season. The management faces the prospect with some trepidation.

ENGLAND SQUAD (v Ireland, Twickenham, 19 February): Full-back: J Callard (Bath); Full- back / wing: I Hunter (Northampton); Wings: R Underwood, T Underwood (Leicester); Centres: W Carling (Harlequins, capt), M Catt, P de Glanville (Bath); Outside-halves: R Andrew (Wasps), S Barnes (Bath); Scrum-halves: K Bracken (Bristol), D Morris (Orrell); Props: J Leonard (Harlequins), G Rowntree (Leicester), V Ubogu (Bath); Hookers: G Dawe (Bath), B Moore (Harlequins); Locks: M Bayfield (Northampton), M Johnson (Leicester), N Redman (Bath); Back row: N Back (Leicester), B Clarke, J Hall, S Ojomoh (Bath), T Rodber (Northampton).

Alan Watkins, page 34