Rugby Union: England's new wave to set 1995 marker: Barrie Fairall looks at the prospects for the non-Lions of England, Wales and Scotland as they test their international mettle on tour

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LIFE with the Lions may be the big one this summer, but come Saturday England, Scotland and Wales open their own tours de force in such faraway places as the Canadian stronghold of British Columbia, Nadi in Fiji and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. The aged hard-drinking school may have cast an envious eye over the itineraries, but these days there is more to rugby than the sounds of laughter and breaking glass.

Which is why in the off-season hard rugby has become the norm for top players. When you see an England international on a Saturday night clutching a drink and explaining in a self-conscious fashion that it is only a Coca-Cola then you know things have become serious. So even at the end of an increasingly tough domestic slog spread across eight months, the social tour is dead among the home unions.

England, having supplied 16 players to the Lions, look to their future by taking 30 who will become the backbone of the next World Cup squad to Canada. Some argue that England left it a season too late to dispense with the old guard and will suffer the consequences in the next Five Nations' Championship. In which case the likes of Neil Back should benefit from an immediate confrontation against improving opponents.

As the Canadians showed in the last World Cup and during October's Wembley international, they cannot be taken lightly. Neither can Back, not long ago regarded as too short for international rugby by Geoff Cooke. England's manager has since backtracked and the flanker's ambition to wear the No 7 shirt monopolised by Peter Winterbottom for 12 years is surely about to be realised.

Back - who at 11 announced to his school's assembly in Coventry that he would one day play for England - will still have to wait, though, for his first cap. The Rugby Football Union originally planned to award caps for the two Tests against Canada and - until the Eagles announced they were grounded through lack of finance - the one scheduled against the United States, but there was a change of heart once it became clear that the Lions English count would be high.

Back is therefore left to rub shoulders with nine who have already made the grade and if he is feeling a little sore then so, perhaps, is John Hall. Due to lead champions Bath next season, the flanker has already made a success of captaining the England A side. Instead, John Olver will be making the after-dinner speeches. Nor is another of the A team's Bath men, the coach Jack Rowell, too happy about missing a trip which sees Peter Rossborough installed as manager.

Smiling through it all, meanwhile, comes John Fletcher, the Tynedale centre who represented the North against the South-West during the winter. This will be a great adventure for him, as it will be for the Bristol scrum-half Kyran Bracken and the Bedford No 8 Mark Rennell, who were brought into the squad when Steve Bates and Dean Ryan withdrew.

England, on the other hand, have been warned. The Canadians have indicated they will be sending overseas for Gareth Rees and John Graf, who are in France, and the Tokyo-based Glen Ennis and Eddie Evans. 'We need to expand our approach and these matches form part of the buildup for the 1995 World Cup,' Ian Birtwell, Canada's coach, said.

Rossborough, meanwhile, admits England are at the crossroads after defeats in Wales and Ireland. 'This is a very important tour for English rugby. Wade Dooley, Peter Winterbottom and Jon Webb have announced their retirement and it's vital we find ready-made replacements for them. We must build for next season and the international against New Zealand. But in the long term, we're looking to players to lay down a marker for the 1995 World Cup and beyond.'

England at least have a couple of warm-up games before their first Test on Saturday week, but Wales go straight in and play the first of two internationals against Zimbabwe this weekend. Gareth Llewellyn leads the side in place of the Lion Ieuan Evans. 'We are a young team,' Neath's lock said, 'and we are going to get better.'

Those last words could also apply to off-field behaviour because one hopes Llewellyn has a happier time than he did when he last toured with Wales - the ill-fated trip Down Under in 1991 when, after the 63-6 whipping by the Wallabies in Brisbane, he featured in an absymal public row.

While the Welsh, who will be awarding caps, also face Namibia in Windhoek, Scotland have followed England's lead and can expect a bumpy ride in the Pacific. They open on Saturday against Fiji B, tackle the full Fijian side a week later and conclude their trip with further Tests against Tonga and Western Samoa.

This will be an eye-opener of a trip for the 27-year-old Northampton centre Rob MacNaughton, who has received the call after playing for Scottish Exiles. Another exile has not been so lucky. Alan Sharp, the former Bristol prop who because of injury is still waiting for a first cap, has withdrawn following appendicitis.

ENGLAND (for Canadian tour): Full-backs: *D Pears (Harlequins), A Buzza (Wasps). Wings: S Hackney (Leicester), N Beal (Northampton), *C Oti (Wasps), A Adebayo (Bath). Centres: J Fletcher (Tynedale), *P de Glanville (Bath), D Hopley (Wasps), G Childs (Wasps). Outside-halves: P Challinor (Harlequins), P Grayson (Waterloo). Scrum-halves: M Dawson (Northampton), K Bracken (Bristol). Props: G Rowntree (Leicester), M Hynes (Orrell), D Garforth (Leicester), *V Ubogu (Bath). Hookers: *J Olver (Northampton, capt), K Dunn (Wasps). Locks: *M Johnson (Leicester), A Blackmore (Bristol), A Snow (Harlequins), *N Redman (Bath). Back row: *J Hall (Bath), *T Rodber (Northampton), M Greenwood (Wasps), S Ojomoh (Bath), N Back (Leicester), M Rennell (Bedford).

SCOTLAND (for Pacific tour): Full-backs: *K Logan (Stirling County), C Redpath (Melrose). Wings: N Grecian (London Scottish), J Kerr (Hadington), K Milligan (Stewart's-Melville FP), *D Stark (Boroughmuir). Centres: I Jardine (Stirling County), R MacNaughton (Northampton), S Nichol (Selkirk), *D Wyllie (Stewart's-Melville FP). Outside-halves: A Donaldson (Currie), *G Townsend (Gala). Scrum-halves: B Redpath (Melrose), *A Nicol (Dundee HSFP, capt). Props: S Ferguson (Peebles), G Isaac (Gala), G Wilson (Boroughmuir), *P Jones (Gloucester). Hookers: J Hay (Hawick), *M Scott (Edinburgh Academicals). Locks: *C Gray (Nottingham), A Macdonald (Heriot's FP), S Munro (Glasgow High / Kelvinside), R Scott (London Scottish). Back row: K Armstrong (Jed-Forest), *C Hogg (Melrose), *D McIvor (Edinburgh Academicals), *I Smith (Gloucester); *G Weir (Melrose), M Wallace (Glasgow High / Kelvinside).

WALES (for Zimbabwe / Namibia tour): Full-backs: *M Rayer (Cardiff), I Jones (Llanelli). Wings: *W Proctor (Llanelli), S Hill (Cardiff). Centres: N Boobyer (Llanelli), *R Bidgood (Newport), H Woodland (Neath). Outside-halves: *A Davies (Cardiff), *N Jenkins (Pontypridd). Scrum-halves: *R Moon (Llanelli), R Howley (Bridgend). Props: I Buckett (Swansea), *M Griffiths (Cardiff), *J Davies (Neath), *H Williams-Jones (South Wales Police). Hookers: *A Lamerton (Llanelli), R McBryde (Swansea). Locks: *P Arnold (Swansea), *A Copsey (Llanelli) *P Davies (Llanelli), *Gareth Llewellyn (Neath, capt). Back row: *S Davies (Swansea), L Jones (Llanelli), *E Lewis (Llanelli), *M Perego (Llanelli), A Williams (Maesteg).

* denotes full international

RUGBY'S SUMMER SEASON

ENGLAND

22 May: British Columbia(Victoria)

26 May: British Columbia XV(Vancouver)

29 May: Canada(Vancouver)

2 June: Ontario(Toronto)

5 June: Canada(Nepean)

SCOTLAND

22 May: Fiji B(Nadi)

26 May: Fiji Juniors(Suva)

29 May: Fiji(Suva)

2 June: Tonga President's XV(Nukualofa)

5 June: Tonga(Nukualofa)

9 June: Western Samoa President's XV(Apia)

12 June: Western Samoa(Apia)

WALES

22 May: ZIMBABWE(Bulawayo)

25 May: Zimbabwe B(Harare)

29 May: ZIMBABWE(Harare)

2 June: Namibia B(Windhoek)

5 June: NAMIBIA(Windhoek)

9 June: Barbarians Select XV(Windhoek)

Full internationals in capitals

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