Rugby Union: Hopley lends his weight to London

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The Independent Online
WHILE interest will be centred on the confrontation at stand-off between Rob Andrew and Stuart Barnes, the 15st Damian Hopley arrives hot from Tuesday's University match to beef up London's centre against the South-West at Gloucester on Saturday.

The England B player, a winner with Cambridge at Twickenham, will be joining forces again with Fran Clough, his team-mate at Wasps and a former Light Blue who has gone all the way for England. Clough, who has been recovering from a hip ligament injury, was missing last weekend for London in their opening Divisional Championship victory over the Midlands at Sudbury. To be on the safe side, he will have a fitness test before travelling to Kingsholm.

Clough's international career was put on hold in 1987, but the 22-year-old Hopley has a promising future and will relish the prospect of tackling the South-West, who strode past the North first time out, in a game that will go some distance towards deciding the destiny of the divisional title.

John Buckton, who has been left out of the squad, and Mark Evans, retained as a replacement, are the centres to give way. London, meanwhile, have had a partial change of mind over second-row selection. Having gone in with back-row specialists against the Midlands, they now bring in Alex Snow, the Harlequins lock, for Mark Russell.

Signs that the South-West are at last beginning to get their act together under Barnes is perhaps reflected in the North's list of injuries from the Headingley match. England's Dewi Morris and Wade Dooley will not be in condition to face the Midlands at Waterloo because of damaged ribs.

Morris is replaced at scrum-half by Wakefield's David Scully, while David Baldwin, another member of the England B tour party to New Zealand during the summer, comes in for Dooley at lock.

The Richard Loe eye-gouging story continues to run, the New Zealand Rugby Football Union yesterday reserving its decision on an appeal against the nine-month suspension of the All Black prop.

LONDON (v South-West, Gloucester, Saturday): A Buzza; S Pilgrim, F Clough (all Wasps), D Hopley (Cambridge Univ and Wasps), D O'Leary (Saracens); R Andrew (capt), S Bates (both Wasps); J Leonard, B Moore (both Harlequins), J Probyn (Wasps), A Snow, R Langhorn (both Harlequins), M Skinner (Blackheath), D Ryan (Wasps), J Cassell (Saracens). Replacements: M Evans (Harlequins), G Gregory (Nottingham), R Glenister (Harlequins), G Holmes (Wasps), G Botterman (Saracens), S Dear (Harlequins).