Rugby Union: Reshuffles follow injuries to Richards and Morrison: No quick return for concussed Walker

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The Independent Online
BOTH England and Scotland will have to reshape their back rows for the Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield on 5 February after serious injuries which have put Iain Morrison out for the season and Dean Richards from England's first two Five Nations matches.

Morrison broke two bones in his left leg in the Scots' 29-6 defeat by Wales in Cardiff while Richards dislocated his right elbow in Leicester's First Division win at Orrell. In addition Nigel Walker, the Wales wing, will miss the Irish match on 5 February after being severely concussed on Saturday.

Richards, England's most- capped No 8, has been given a six-week recovery period, meaning he will still be unavailable when Ireland visit Twickenham on 19 March. 'There's no bone damage but the dislocation was a painful, serious injury,' Geoff Cooke, the England manager, said yesterday.

Cooke had presided at an

injury-disrupted England session at Twickenham. As well as Richards, Jeremy Guscott (groin), Ian Hunter (flu), Jason Leonard (hip) and Tim Rodber (hamstring) did not participate. Nigel Redman (arm) did most of the training and Kyran Bracken (ankle) some of it.

Redman, Bracken and Rodber intend playing on 29 January but, although he reports some improvement, it looks increasingly as if Guscott's injury will keep him out of all this season's internationals. Leonard will play next Saturday.

England's choice to replace Richards will be made from luxury, with the obvious decision between the bulk of John Hall and the fleet-footed

creativity of Neil Back on the flank with Ben Clarke or more likely, Rodber moving to No 8.

Scotland are less blessed. The closest alternative to the crestfallen Morrison, who has only recently returned from a succession of hamstring injuries, is probably Ian Smith of Gloucester, though he was dropped from the squad for the Wales match.

There was better news yesterday of Craig Chalmers, who went off on Saturday with a bruised cheekbone. Even if he is available to face England, Gregor Townsend's authoritative display as deputy stand-off place means Chalmers is unlikely to be retained.

Walker harbours pretensions that the International Rugby Board's three-week rule will free him to face Ireland. 'The selectors are going to have to think long and hard about it and look at the rules because I really want to play,' he said.

However, the IRB's Medical Resolution 5.5 reads: 'A player who has suffered definite concussion should not participate in any match or training session for a period of at least three weeks from the time of the injury.' So even if a point could be stretched about playing, Walker would be ineligible to train with Wales, making his selection unrealistic.

After being discharged from Cardiff Royal Infirmary before lunch yesterday, Walker said he remembered nothing. 'I've seen the incident since and it seems I made a bit of a fool of myself,' he said. It had taken Walker 15 minutes to be persuaded to leave the touchline after receiving the injury.

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