Rugby Union: Guscott doubts increase

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The Independent Online
THE PROSPECT that England will have to do without Jeremy Guscott against New Zealand grows stronger by the day, if we are to believe the ever-gloomier prognoses about his groin injury emanating from Twickenham, writes Steve Bale.

Guscott was in his usual centre position in the team chosen last weekend and now known to virtually everyone even though it is not being announced until Sunday. How superbly ironic that it would most likely be Philip de Glanville, his scarred eyelid a continuing reminder of All Black footwork from the South-West game, who would replace him alongside Will Carling.

Having played only three games this season, Guscott has consulted the Rugby Football Union's surgeon, Nigel Henderson, without a decisive outcome. 'He hasn't given a firm opinion,' Guscott said, meaning the player has yet to decide whether to take a chance by playing for Bath at Leicester on Saturday.

'Jerry desperately wants to play against the All Blacks but he must be rated doubtful,' Don Rutherford, the RFU's technical director, admitted yesterday. 'He will come to this weekend's squad session with all the other players. The surgeon will tell us later this week what Jerry needs to do to recover.'

First New Zealand have to play Scotland, who trained without mishap - and without prying eyes - at Murrayfield yesterday. Tony Stanger, the wing, has recovered from a cold. The All Blacks headed for St Andrews, where they trained at a Royal Air Force base.

Their team for Saturday's Test at Murrayfield will be named today, with the odds firmly on a choice closely resembling the side who played England A at Gateshead 11 days ago. This would mean four new caps, including Marc Ellis and Stu Forster at half-back and the New Zealand cricketer, Jeff Wilson, on the right wing.

The significant doubt appears to concern whether Jamie Joseph did enough against the Scotland development team on Tuesday to keep him at blind-side flanker in preference to Blair Larsen. With Robin Brooke soon to be homeward-bound because of his torn calf muscle, the fourth newcomer is likely to be the lock, Steve Gordon, who has made four previous All Black tours without winning a cap.