Rugby Union: Guscott fit and ready to roll again

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A YEAR and a fortnight since he last played league rugby for Bath, Jeremy Guscott is ready to make his return at last - an impatiently awaited event that, if successful, would be of incalculable benefit to England's World Cup prospects, writes Steve Bale.

The finest centre in the land announced yesterday that he was finally available for selection in any of Bath's three senior teams on Saturday. Although a gentler run-out at second or even third-team level may seem more appropriate, there is every likelihood that the club selectors will prefer to put him straight in at West Hartlepool.

Guscott has been affected by a groin injury ever since the Lions' tour of New Zealand last year. Last season he managed just two First Division appearances and one other game, against the South African Barbarians nearly 11 months ago, before missing all of the Five Nations' Championship as well as England's summer tour of South Africa.

'I am completely pain-free, though I still have about six weeks' treatment left,' he said. 'I need to build up the muscles and mobilise my hip, which has become a bit stiff.' Bath's England men were excused club training on Monday but Guscott, anxious for physical-contact work, trained without mishap with the forwards on Monday and also trained at the England session in Marlow last night.