Rugby Union: Leonard has the doctor's approval

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The Independent Online
JASON LEONARD'S return to rugby after a serious neck operation is now a question of when not if, according to the England prop's club, Harlequins. As soon as he had participated in last season's Grand Slam, Leonard had a disc removed from the top of his spine, surgery which required entry through his throat.

Colin Herridge, the Quins' secretary, has never said other than that the operation was a success and that the 23-year-old Essex carpenter's playing career was in no doubt. But the nature of the injury and the pressure Leonard's neck undergoes in the scrum led to uncertainty as to whether he would add to his 19 caps.

This was diminished by a re- examination by the surgeon, who pronounced himself well satisfied. Leonard is spending a month in Calgary, Canada, where he is in training and has even, according to his father, had a couple of games.

Whatever his fitness, Leonard is included in the England squad to play Leicester on 5 September. Failing that, he is impatient to prove himself before England play Canada in October or, at worst, South Africa in November. 'But first he would have to have complete medical clearance,' Herridge warned yesterday.

The New Zealand management's exoneration of Richard Loe after he had broken Paul Carozza's nose in the second-Test defeat by Australia prompted the Australian RFU yesterday to call for a change in the rules for dealing with on-field incidents which go undetected by the referee.

It is up to the player's own officials to consider any complaint; the ARFU wants a panel comprising one official from each side with an International Board member in the chair - replicating the system used to deal with a sending-off.

Jamie Joseph has replaced Andy Earl as flanker in the only change for tomorrow's third Test in Sydney from the All Blacks team beaten in Brisbane last Sunday. New Zealand need to win to prevent their first three-match whitewash by the Wallabies since 1929.

NEW ZEALAND (v Australia, tomorrow): J Timu; J Kirwan, F Bunce, W Little, V Tuigamala; G Fox, A Strachan; R Loe, S Fitzpatrick (capt), O Brown, R Brooke, I Jones, J Joseph, Z Brooke, M Jones.

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