Rugby Union: Guscott returns to league action: England centre is called straight into Bath's first team

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

NONE of that messing around in the second or third team for him, Jeremy Guscott's long- awaited return taking him straight to Brierton Lane for unbeaten Bath's league match with West Hartlepool.

Which rather bucks the system at Bath, where others have had to earn their call to first- team colours. Still, England's most talented centre will be back a year and a fortnight since he last played a Courage game for the champions.

While this may have put one or two selectors' noses out of joint down at the Rec, one can only wish him well after a persistent groin injury came to light following his return from last year's tour of New Zealand with the Lions.

'I'm completely free of pain,' Guscott, who trained with England on Tuesday, says. As for coming straight into the first team - his own preference, apparently - he is not lacking support. 'I think he's the exception to the rule,' Don Rutherford, the Rugby Football Union's technical director, said.

Meanwhile, Brendan Mullin, another player heading down the comeback trail, has been included in Ireland's squad for a training weekend begining on Saturday week. The country's most capped centre, Mullin won the last of his 45 caps against Scotland two years ago, his sudden decision to retire at the top level coming before Ireland's last Five Nations match of the season against France. .

Mullin indicated he was available for selection again just before the start of this season and his selection in the 29-man squad is the first step towards further honours.

Also included in the squad is Pat O'Hara, the Cork Constitution flanker who was troubled by injuries for most of last season and last played for Ireland against England in 1993.

As for our old friend Richard Loe, controversially recalled by New Zealand after a ban for eye-gouging, he has now been suspended for three weeks. The Canterbury prop was captured on television raking John Timu, a fellow All Black, while playing against Otago in a Ranfurly Shield match. The suspension would rule Loe out of half the matches on Canterbury's forthcoming tour of England and Wales, always assuming the club pick him. Loe played all six Tests this year for New Zealand.

Irish squad, Sporting Digest, page 39