Rugby Union: England's new boys have to play on

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The Independent Online
The Bristol lock Simon Shaw will be alone in taking the traditional day off today as he prepares to make his England debut against Italy at Twickenham next Saturday. That luxury is not afforded to his fellow new caps, Tim Stimpson, Adebayo Adebayo and Andy Gomersall.

Bristol's failure to reach the European Conference quarter-finals sees Shaw resting his 6ft 9in frame during another busy round of European and domestic fixtures.

Adebayo is on the wing for Bath at Cardiff in the European Cup, while the Newcastle full-back Stimpson and the Wasps scrum-half Gomersall lead their clubs' bid for two more precious league points.

Wasps will go second on points difference behind the First Division leaders Harlequins if, as expected, they defeat struggling London Irish at Sunbury.

Gomersall is partnered by the England replacement Alex King, Va'aiga Tuigamala returns from Western Samoan duties in Ireland, while the ex- Bath pair Damian Cronin and Andy Reed form an all-Scottish second-row partnership.

Today's other rearranged First Division game takes Gloucester to Orrell, with their coaching director, Richard Hill, predicting a victory which would put them alongside Bristol in eighth place. "Orrell will play with real local pride and determination, but I am very confident after our win at West Hartlepool last Saturday," Hill said.

Stimpson declined an offer to sit out Newcastle's Second Division match at London Scottish. Newcastle's scrum-half Gary Armstrong is ruled out by rib trouble, an injury which threatens to ruin his chances of joining the Newcastle player/coach Rob Andrew in the Barbarians line-up against Australia at Twickenham on 7 December.

Richmond should not encounter too many problems when they visit Nottingham, but second-placed Coventry can expect a much tougher time at Bedford, who have been beaten only once in seven league outings since mid-September.

Tim Grady, of Edinburgh Wanderers, has been banned for 18 months following an incident in which an opponent suffered facial injuries.

The Scottish Rugby Union have suspended Grady until 16 May, 1998, after he was cited following an incident in his side's Tennents National League match against Portobello FP last month.

Scott Hastings, Scotland's most-capped player, has signed a full-time contract with the SRU, bringing the number of professionals to 40. The 31-year-old centre, who was dropped for Scotland's match against Australia last Saturday, did not sign up straight away when offered a contract.

There has also been no commitment from the winger Ken Logan, who is rumoured to have been approached by a leading English club. Peter Wright and Stewart Campbell are also holding back from signing contracts.