Rugby Union: Irish wait for Rowell's choice

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The Independent Online
Rugby Union

STEVE BALE

Whatever the precise nature of the "inconclusive" video evidence, Jack Rowell can count himself fortunate to be in a position to reselect Jason Leonard in the England team to be named today after the prop's acquittal - though not quite exoneration - of punching Rob Wainwright, the Scotland captain, in last Saturday's Calcutta Cup match.

With Leonard rendered available for the Triple Crown decider against Ireland at Twick- enham a week tomorrow, despite having been cited for foul play by the Scottish , the manager has no particular motive for making any changes, unless England's inability to win consistent line-out ball other than through Martin Johnson persuades him to reinstate Martin Bayfield. The World Cup wing Tony Underwood, belatedly fit again, may also come under consideration.

By their line-out calls in the victory at Murrayfield, England revealed an almost total reluctance to aim for Bayfield's replacement, Garath Archer, but even so it is hard to imagine Archer's exclusion after only one cap, and Bayfield himself accepts that he will not have another chance until next season.

Nevertheless uncertainty about the English second row was one reason why the Irish delayed their selection from breakfast-time yesterday to dinnertime tonight - so as to see what Rowell has done first. If Bayfield were recalled, they would almost certainly recall their own discarded lock, Neil Francis. If not, Jeremy Davidson will continue.

Ireland also have a selection issue at centre, where the selectors are concerned about the flu virus that put Jonathan Bell out of the Northampton team who appeared in the guise of East Midlands against the Barbarians on Wednesday.

An obvious alternative would have been a swift recall for Kurt McQuilkin. But the New Zealander's legacy of his Baa-Baas debut is a broken arm, leaving Mark McCall pushing for a first cap in two years while re-forming with David Humphreys and Maurice Field of the Ulster midfield triangle who played so sweetly against New South Wales.

Domestically, Moseley's intention of signing the former All Black outside- half Frano Botica to play rugby union during the rugby league off-season looks like coming to fruition by the end of the month. The Second Division club, who are putting together a business consortium to take them into professionalism, are in negotiation with Castleford about compensation for Botica's release.

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