Rugby Union: Richards seeks credit as tail wags dog: Welsh take a league break but today some of England's finest battle on

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The Independent Online
WALES have done well by leaving free weekends before internationals, but England enjoy no such luxury and it has needed an intervention by Geoff Cooke, the outgoing team manager, to get some of his side this day off before the Five Nations' Championship reaches its climax against the Welsh at Twickenham next Saturday.

In the end, though, it was down to the individual, and Cooke could be excused for wishing more were not participating in today's Courage League programme. 'I pointed out that they had yet another tough match next week and if they could possibly take a rest without letting down their clubs, it would help England,' he said.

Of those who won in France, Hunter, Underwood, Andrew, Moore, Ubogu, Johnson and Ojomoh - some resting injuries - are avoiding playing before they gather at Richmond tonight for training and the team announcement tomorrow. The Welsh team trained in Cardiff last night and will do so again this morning.

Andrew's absence could have a critical effect on Wasps when they play Bath, leaders and champions, at the Rec. This may not matter too much to Wasps who, though third, are out of contention, but it may have great significance for Leicester, who trail Bath by only two points.

Mind you, Leicester are themselves resting their England players, but at the same time they celebrate Dean Richards's return against Newcastle Gosforth eight weeks after he dislocated an elbow. If Richards, the only addition to the England 21 from Parc des Princes, were to make it straight back into the team, it would presumably be at the expense of Steve Ojomoh.

Ojomoh's legacy of France is an ankle injury which ensures his absence from today's Bath line-up. Wasps move Huw Davies, the 35- year-old former England stand-off, from full-back in place of Andrew, thereby depriving Stuart Barnes of his chance of direct comparison with the perennial rival who keeps him out of the England team.

'I believe I'm a better stand-off than Rob, though we have different styles,' Barnes said yesterday. The England selectors have seldom seen it that way and Barnes, never the diplomat, is happy to remind them of their side's obvious failing. 'If selectors want to see tries, then they should be at Bath,' he added.

Will Carling and Jason Leonard have declined the offer of a break from Harlequins' visit to Northampton, but Brian Moore accepted. Dewi Morris faces Kyran Bracken, his England scrum-half successor and predecessor, when Orrell visit Bristol. If London Irish go down to Gloucester, they can begin preparing for the Second Division.

The Canadians are not calling up the prolific Test outside-half, Gareth Rees, now playing for Newport, for today's 'A' game against Wales in Cardiff. The Scottish title will be Melrose's if they draw at Currie, and possibly even if they lose.

Of greater concern to the Scots is Kenny Milne's knee. This keeps him out of today's Heriot's-Hawick match and threatens to keep the Lions hooker out of next Saturday's Scotland-France match.

Louis Luyt has been elected president of the South African Rugby Football Union. Luyt, of the Transvaal, is also SARFU's organiser for next year's World Cup in the Republic.

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