Rugby Union: Gallagher throwing old boys into fray

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The Independent Online
IT MAY have escaped people's notice amid all the hype surrounding Will Carling's comeback with Harlequins, but the reason for the former England captain being picked for bench duty this afternoon for the visit of Allied Dunbar Premiership One leaders Leicester, is the fact that Quins are short-staffed, writes David Llewellyn.

Zinzan Brooke and Thierry Lacroix are injured, as is Rob Liley; international duty has further claimed David Officer (Scotland A) and hooker Keith Wood (Ireland). The midfield crisis in particular is acute, forcing manager John Gallagher to turn to the former England captain who last played 13 months ago, as well as calling up another former Harlequin, David Pears, to start the game at stand-off.

"With Rob Liley injured we needed a specialist outside-half," explained Gallagher. Pears, November's Jewson Player of the Month for his performances for Wharfedale in National League One, lives conveniently near The Stoop.

He last played for the London side in November 1995 before yet another injury sidelined the unluckiest man in rugby. Pears has suffered damage to practically every part of his body and were it not for that the talented stand-off would have won more than his four England caps.

Leicester are not far short of full strength and are expected to pull four points clear at the top, although second-placed Saracens could well come away with both points at Northampton, who have lost four players to various Scottish teams.

Wasps do not have the problem of Test calls. Kenny Logan plays for Scotland today before flying back from Edinburgh to play on the wing against Bath at Loftus Road tomorrow, a match which kicks off at 2.30pm. Rob Henderson, on the Ireland bench today, is similarly expected to do his bit for the club. Bath scrum-half Gareth Cooper has recovered from a fractured eye socket, while Mike Tindall comes in for Ireland centre Kevin Maggs.

The London Irish captain, Conor O'Shea, and Justin Bishop, both in the Ireland team to face France today, are on the bench for the visit of Gloucester tomorrow. The West Country side have axed full-back Chris Catling, replacing him with Mark Mapletoft, while Simon Mannix comes in at stand-off.