Rugby Union: Praise for Perry as hooker Long prays for a second chance

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The Independent Online
Two of England's debutants had wildly differing experiences against Australia.

David Llewellyn talks to the hooker Andy Long and the full-back Matt Perry about the pain and pleasure of Test rugby.

They were both born 20 years ago. They are Bath clubmates. They share a house in the city. And they made their international debuts together against Australia on Saturday.

But there the similarities end. Against the Wallabies the share of good fortune was unequally distributed. Andy Long and Matt Perry had very different baptisms in Test rugby. Perry earned the plaudits for his performance at full-back in the face of some formidable opponents. And the engaging youngster stayed on the pitch for the whole of the match.

Long, in contrast, was a member of a pack who were shoved like topsoil by a bulldozer of an Australian scrum all over the Twickenham turf, and just when he looked to be getting the hang of things he was replaced at half-time.

Long, who missed out by three days on becoming the youngest hooker to play for England - that distinction remains with Reggie Roberts who played against Ireland in 1932 aged 20 years 71 days - was disappointed to be taken off.

"Clive [Woodward] said the idea was always to take me off then and perhaps bring me back on later," Long said. "But I would have liked to have started the second half because I felt I was getting stronger and better as the game went on."

Perry was described as "awesome" by Bath colleague Mike Catt, but his own analysis was more balanced. "Overall I was pleased with my game," he said. "But there are things that I need to work on. There were a few mistakes and what I aim to do is erase them game by game."

Both Long and Perry felt they had learned a lot in a short time. "I want to build on what I have experienced today," said Long, who, for all the shortcomings of the pack, did not disgrace himself in any way. "At least I now know what I need to do. The thing is I have got my first cap out of the way, now I can concentrate on the game."

They share a similar desire to play against New Zealand on Saturday and Perry voiced the wish that all of the new caps must be harbouring when he said: "I hope Clive [Woodward] keeps faith with the youngsters. I hope we get another chance next week, because that will a real test.

"The All Blacks are a superb side and they have shown it. They seem to be touring the world, crucifying teams as they go. To play against them would be superb. Christian Cullen is a magnificent player - world class. But playing against him takes the pressure off me. He's got everything to lose and if I am playing I am going to give it a go."

Long echoed Perry's sentiments. "Now I have experienced international rugby I want more of it. I am looking forward to playing more games at this level. I'd definitely love a crack at the All Blacks, especially after seeing what it was like out there. Australia had a good side. They were no mugs up front." Ditto the All Blacks.

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