Rugby Union: Regan's delight at final Test call-up

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The Independent Online
Mark Regan went drinking in the Last Chance Saloon in Welkom on Tuesday, not knowing whether he would discover the elixir of life or end up drowning his sorrows. Happily for England's ebullient hooker, he emerged invigorated with a priceless vote of confidence from Fran Cotton and his Lions selectors.

Regan's outstanding performance in the final midweek match against Northern Free State won him a place in the side for tomorrow's third and last Test with South Africa here. He comes into the front row for the injured Keith Wood and while the decision was a tight one - Barry Williams, the Richmond- bound Welshman, had been the replacement hooker in both the Cape Town and Durban matches - the management opted for the man on the hotter streak.

"We were delighted with Mark's all-round play on Tuesday and we've always said we would pick players whose form pushed them forward for selection in the next game," said Ian McGeechan the coach explaining the apparent about-face. Regan put it more personally. "Tuesday was all about pride and self-respect," he said. "I can't say how delighted I am."

Two other players, Mike Catt and Tony Underwood, will win first Lions caps at outside-half and left wing respectively, while Neil Back, the Leicester open-side flanker who played as a replacement in Durban last weekend, makes his first Test start ahead of Richard Hill. The South African- born Catt gets his chance because Gregor Townsend has pulled a thigh muscle, while Underwood replaces Alan Tait, who picked up a groin strain during the epic second Test.

Catt will renew an old acquaintance at Ellis Park in the shape of Jannie de Beer, the Free State stand-off and a fellow debutant at this level. The two played against each other during their schooldays in Port Elizabeth. "Jannie was and is a very talented footballer who kicks superbly," Catt said. "There are new players in both sides and they'll be keen to make things happen, so I think both of us will be looking to create as open a game as possible."

Tim Stimpson, the Lions' leading point-scorer with 111, wins a place on the Test bench for the first time, as do Allan Bateman and David Young, the two Welshmen, and it may well be part of the strategy to use three or more substitutes in the course of what promises to be another extreme encounter.

South Africa's full-back and most capped player, Andre Joubert, has pulled out of the third Test with a groin injury. He will be replaced by Border's Russell Bennett, making his first start for the Springboks.

BRITISH ISLES: N Jenkins (Pontypridd and Wales); J Bentley (Newcastle and England), J Guscott (Bath and England), S Gibbs (Swansea and Wales), T Underwood (Newcastle and England); M Catt (Bath and England), M Dawson (Northampton and England); T Smith (Watsonians and Scotland), M Regan (Bristol and England), P Wallace (Saracens and Ireland), M Johnson (Leicester and England, capt), J Davidson (London Irish and Ireland), L Dallaglio (Wasps and England), T Rodber (Northampton and England), N Back (Leicester and England). Replacements: T Stimpson (Newcastle and England), A Bateman (Richmond and Wales), A Healey (Leicester and England), B Williams (Richmond and Wales), D Young (Cardiff and Wales), R Hill (Saracens and England).