Rugby Union: Evans gives way to Walker at Twickenham but Dallaglio passed fit

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The Independent Online
THE SPIRIT may be willing, but Ieuan Evans' battered body is beginning to protest in the strongest possible terms. Eight months after being invalided out of the Lions tour of South Africa with a serious groin condition, the most celebrated Welsh wing since Gerald Davies has given best to injury once again and withdrawn from this weekend's Five Nations match with England at Twickenham.

Evans has problems with a calf muscle and withdrew yesterday on medical advice. "If he played on Saturday he would risk a muscle tear that might mean a five-week lay-off," Kevin Bowring, the Welsh coach, said. Gareth Thomas switches from left to right wing to create room for Nigel Walker, the former Olympic sprint hurdler from Cardiff, who many Welshmen believe should have been picked in the first place.

Now only month short of his 34th birthday, Evans does not have too many international occasions left to him. A close season move from Llanelli to Bath rekindled his enthusiasm for top-level rugby and he realised a cherished ambition last month when he helped his new club to the Heineken Cup title in Bordeaux, but his increasingly frequent presence on the injury list suggests he will struggle to make it to next year's World Cup.

As expected, Lawrence Dallaglio, the England captain, confirmed yesterday that had recovered from a rib injury and would start the match with Wales. Interestingly enough, a second rib-cage was also declared fully functional, that of Thomas Lievremont, the French No 8.

Either Jason Leonard was entirely innocent of stamping on Lievremont's rib-cage during the France-England match in Paris, or he did not stamp nearly as hard as les Tricolores maintained in the aftermath of battle. The highly capable 24-year-old forward from Perpignan will take the field against the Scots at Murrayfield this weekend, apparently none the worse for wear.

What is more, his brother, Marc, will accompany him in the French back row. The heavy-tackling Stade Francais flanker replaced the more experienced Philippe Benetton during the early stages of the England match and brought such oomph to the loose exchanges that the selectors have retained his services. "Marc was our best defensive player against the English and we see him playing a key role again on Saturday," said Jo Maso, the team manager.

Lievremont's promotion is the only change to the side that beat England far more comfortably than the 24-17 scoreline suggested. Christophe Dominici, a try-scorer in Paris, and Thierry Cleda, the replacement lock from Pau, have recovered from minor injuries and take their respective places on the left wing and the substitutes' bench.

On the domestic front, England's leading Premiership clubs have put forward proposals for a 14-team competition next season - a move that would see relegation scrapped for the second time in three seasons. Under the plan, due to be considered by the Second Division clubs today, the Premiership Two champions and runners-up would win automatic promotion, with the third and fourth clubs taking on the bottom two top-flight finishers in end- of-season play-offs.

FRANCE XV (v Scotland, Saturday): J Sadourny; P Bernat-Salles, C Lamaison, S Glas, C Dominici; T Castaignede, P Carbonneau; F Tournaire, R Ibanez (capt), C Califano, F Pelous, O Brouzet; T Lievremont, O Magne, M Lievremont. Replacements: X Garbajosa, D Aucagne, F Galthie, P Benetton, T Cleda, C Soulette, M del Maso.