Rugby Union: Scots call up Sharp for A team

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The Independent Online
SCOTTISH rugby is beginning to speak with a West Country accent. First there was Ian Smith, then Peter Jones, now Alan Sharp. Sharp, a barrel-chested loose- head prop, yesterday emerged as leading candidate to succeed David Sole when he was chosen in the Scotland A team to play Italy at Melrose on Saturday week.

Not bad for a Bristolian. A career of shifting loyalties - to club and country - and as many lows as highs could soon culminate in a cap. Sharp, 24, was once described by Andy Dun, the former Bristol captain, as 'the best prop prospect I have ever seen', though in the three years since then he has had a variety of troubles. He left Bristol for Clifton but subsequently rejoined and is coached at the Memorial Ground by a Scot, Rob Cunningham.

As Scotland have had no autumn international, their A selection is of considerable significance. If they go well, the five uncapped players have every chance of reselection for the A international against Ireland in Dublin on 28 December and the Five Nations' Championship thereafter.

Gavin Hastings, already installed as national captain, leads the team. The selectors' desire to include another full-back in Mark Appleson got the London Scot in on the wing, the non-cap complement being made up by Derek Stark, Gregor Townsend, Stuart Reid and Sharp.

Sharp's qualification comes through a grandmother from Brechin, enough for Sharp to have played for Scotland Under-19 against Italy before failing to turn up at an Under-21 session and throwing in his lot with England.

When he played for England B against Spain in 1989, his forward companions included one Ian Smith of Gloucester. Neither progressed any further for the land of their birth and Smith, now an established international, will pack down with Sharp for Scotland at Melrose.

The Midlands yesterday replaced their outside-half John Steele with a Welshman, Coventry's Richard Angell, for Saturday's Divisional Championship match against the North at Waterloo.

SCOTLAND A (v Italy, Melrose, 19 December): G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); D Stark (Boroughmuir), G Townsend (Gala), S Hastings (Watsonians), M Appleson (London Scottish); C Chalmers (Melrose), G Armstrong (Jed-Forest); A Sharp (Bristol), K Milne (Heriot's FP), P Burnell, D Cronin (both London Scottish), G Weir, C Hogg (both Melrose), S Reid (Boroughmuir), I Smith (Gloucester). Replacements: K Logan (Stirling County), G Shiel (Melrose), A Nicol (Dundee HSFP), P Wright (Boroughmuir), I Corcoran (Gala), I Morrison (London Scottish).