Rugby Union: Guscott the Lion meets the Baa-Baas in his den

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The Independent Online
IN THE crowded season which this has become, it makes a good deal of sense to keep your powder dry. Jeremy Guscott has kept his drier than most, though England's Lion of a centre emerges tomorrow when the South African Barbarians tackle Bath in their final tour match at the Recreation Ground.

A Lion in his den confronting Baa- Baas has a certain ring about it and while Bath are delighted that Guscott is putting in an appearance so, too, will be the England selectors on hearing that the player is finally putting a persistent groin strain to the test with only three weeks to go before the international against New Zealand at Twickenham.

Since the Lions' summer tour of New Zealand, Guscott has appeared only twice for Bath - both league matches and the last against Gloucester early last month, when he scored one of six tries. And while it would be unthinkable for England to go in without him, Bath will be grateful of his services against Springboks who reach their finale unbeaten in seven matches.

Bath may be weakened by Sunday's England A and Under-21 calls at Gateshead, but they should still give the tourists a good run. Though too late, perhaps, to be considered for Scotland against the All Blacks at Murrayfield in a fortnight's time, Andy Reed returns at lock having sustained knee injuries on the Lions tour.

As for the All Blacks, they are playing the centre Eroni Clarke on the right wing against England A, the position he occupied in the first Test with the Lions at Christchurch. Marc Ellis and Stu Forster are retained at half-back after Tuesday's win over the North, though on this occasion they play behind a pack more closely resembling a Test line-up.

Brian Larsen, a 6ft 5in lock who was in the second row at Anfield, is switched to blindside flanker, his first representative outing in the back row.

Having lost to France last Saturday, Australia have to do without Matthew Burke, who played at full- back in Bordeaux but was selected on the wing for the second Test in Paris tomorrow. Burke has a knee injury and Damian Smith steps in.

Gary French, the Orrell hooker, is out of the North side to face the Midlands at Northampton in the one Divisional Championship game that will be played this weekend. West Hartlepool's Simon Mitchell deputises.