Rugby Union: Hull wins England vote over Callard: Rowell beset by worries as tour of South Africa approaches

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The Independent Online
SENTIMENT has never been part of Jack Rowell's decision-making processes and yesterday the new England manager made the hard-headed choice to fill the full-back vacancy for the tour of South Africa with Paul Hull of Bristol rather than Jonathan Callard of his own club, Bath.

The replacement for the injured Ian Hunter is by no means Rowell's biggest worry, however. For instance, the manager's intention of getting Jeremy Guscott back in the groove is looking condemned to failure and Mike Catt, Matt Poole and the other full-back, David Pears, continue to give cause for concern.

Rowell is now saying that Guscott must be fit by England's second match in South Africa but, as things stand, it would surely be better to do the decent thing and forget him until next season. As for Pears, he assured Rowell when he was appointed last month that he would be fit for the next Saturday's game - and he has yet to reappear. Enough said.

Hull is a richly talented footballer who has done well to overcome the extreme disappointment caused by his premature elevation to the England tour to Argentina in 1990. He was then, like Pears, an outside-half but the tour was a personal calamity and now he has changed places and his fortunes.

'Full-back is my favourite position now,' he said at Twickenham yesterday. 'It has taken time to adapt but the decision has paid off.'

Rowell is deeply worried that the end-of-season injuries presage something even worse 13 months hence, when the World Cup takes place. 'The accumulation of injuries is becoming chronic,' he said. 'Ideally, we would like the players to take April off next season but clubs will be wanting them for league and cup challenges.'

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