Rugby Union: Harriman lands leading role: England switch for World Cup Sevens as Welsh fear the worst

Click to follow
The Independent Online
HAVING led England in their motley collection of pre-World Cup Sevens events, Chris Sheasby was yesterday relieved of the responsibility for the real thing and instead England will be captained by a different Harlequin, Andrew Harriman.

This, it was suggested to Don Rutherford of the Rugby Football Union at the Twickenham announcement, was harsh on Sheasby, who had done a decent job and is a noted exponent of rugby's truncated version. 'We think Harriman will do a better one,' came the reply.

Harriman won a solitary England cap in the 1988 defeat of Australia, though 15-a-side prowess has had little to do with sevens selection. The England 10 for the tournament at Murrayfield from 16-18 April contain only two internationals, Tim Rodber being the other.

The new captain is a magnificent runner-in in the best sevens tradition, but it is fair to say the World Sevens do not have the priority in England that they do in Scotland, whose seven have played in competitions in Fiji, Australia and Hong Kong getting ready. 'It's not the highest,' Rutherford, the RFU's technical director, conceded.

Higher on the list are the Lions tour of New Zealand and England's of Canada, whose restriction to five matches means that some of the 30 tourists could find themselves severely underplayed. An England team are being brought together for a game at Hartlepool on Easter Day by way of Canadian preparation, though three - Darren O'Leary, Terry Garnett and Mark Rennell - have not been selected for the tour.

John Fletcher, the 22-year-old centre plucked from the relative obscurity of the North First Division to go to Canada (and play at Hartlepool), was yesterday invited by Rutherford to stay with Tynedale next season, presumably to set an example to others, but the bigger clubs are circling in anticipation of a move.

If Fletcher moved to a National First Division club, the jump of more than three divisions would restrict his qualification period to 30 rather than 120 days. Newcastle Gosforth, close to Tyendale, are favourites for promotion from the Second Division but already Fletcher is linked with Northampton.

The RFU is congratulating itself on covering pounds 10m of the pounds 16.6m cost of Twickenham's new east stand by sales of its 10- year, pounds 2,100 Rose Debenture despite the recession. But even so, it yesterday launched a five-year debenture at pounds 1,250 to try to gee up the market.

ENGLAND WORLD CUP SEVENS SQUAD (Murrayfield, 16-18 April): A Harriman (Harlequins, capt), A Adebayo (Bath), N Beal (Northampton), M Dawson (Northampton), D Scully (Wakefield), D Hopley (Wasps), J Cassell (Saracens), L Dallaglio (Wasps), T Rodber (Northampton), C Sheasby (Harlequins).

ENGLAND'S CANADIAN TOUR ITINERARY: 22 May British Columbia (Victoria); 26 British Columbia XV (Vancouver); 29 Canada (Vancouver); 2 June Ontario (Toronto); 5 Canada (Ottawa).

ENGLAND XV (v Bob Oakes XV, Hartlepool Rovers RFC, 11 April): D Pears (Harlequins); D O'Leary (Saracens), J Fletcher (Tynedale), P de Glanville (Bath), A Adebayo (Bath); P Grayson (Waterloo), K Bracken (Bristol); M Hynes (Orrell), T Garnett (Wakefield), V Ubogu (Bath), N Redman (Bath), A Blackmore (Bristol), J Hall (Bath, capt), M Rennell (Bedford), S Ojomoh (Bath).

Alan Watkins,

Courage tables, page 32