Rugby Union: Further blow for Barnes

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STUART BARNES'S revived England aspirations were back in abeyance last night after a training injury which has ruled the England B captain out of consideration for next Saturday's match at Leicester, and may also cause him to miss the start of Bath's league programme.

Barnes, who led the B tourists in New Zealand, has either a pulled or torn calf, a similar injury to one which cost him the better part of two months' rugby two seasons ago. When an England XV play Leicester to mark the centenary of the Welford Road ground, the 29-year-old outside-half will not now be there. Neither will he participate in Bath's tour to Italy, where he was to have arrived for the champions' game against Treviso on 12 September.

More critical for Bath, though, is their opening First Division fixture on 19 September, when Harlequins' visit to the Recreation Ground reprises the epic cup final of four months ago. 'My physiotherapist tells me the odds are 60- 40 in my favour for that match, but the last time I had an injury like this I was out considerably longer,' Barnes said yesterday. 'It's a bit of a blow to miss out on the England weekend but there's a lot of big rugby to come.'

Bath believe they may have persuaded Barnes's outside-half understudy, Duncan Willett, to stay with the club after earlier anticipating his departure. But if Barnes does not make the Harlequins game, they may consider switching the England centre Jeremy Guscott.

Anxious not to rush his comeback from a serious knee injury, Scotland's Lions scrum-half, Gary Armstrong, has withdrawn from the South of Scotland team who kick off the new season against Leinster at Galashiels next Wednesday. Armstrong says he has a shin injury, though this is not bad enough to prevent his playing for Jed-Forest in today's Selkirk Sevens.

Given the severity of the injury from which he has been recovering, he may have been surprised to be included in representative rugby with such haste on the very first day of the 15-a-side season. The only rugby Armstrong has had since January was a match in Orkney for a team organised by the former Scotland captain, Finlay Calder.