Rugby Union: Tourists apologise to de Glanville

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The Independent Online
THE Rugby Football Union reluctantly gave up its pursuit of punishment yesterday after the New Zealand management had decided that the incident which caused Philip de Glanville's facial injury was an accident, writes Steve Bale.

The South-West centre needed 15 stitches around his left eye, which is now closed tight, after falling on the wrong side of a ruck during last Saturday's game against the All Blacks. Video evidence shows the boots of Sean Fitzpatrick and Ian Jones in contact with de Glanville's head; he believes that it was no accident.

However, Neil Gray, the New Zealand manager, has apologised in a telephone call to de Glanville and Fitzpatrick has done the same to Ian Beer, the RFU president, who after meeting his NZ counterpart Ian Clarke yesterday came up with the idea of an early summit meeting of coaches, referees and senior players to thrash out what does and does not constitute legitimate rucking.

'The manager was very apologetic and sincere, and assured me that no player would do such a thing on purpose,' de Glanville said yesterday. 'I accepted his apology. It's got to the point where we will have to let it drop.' His father Derek was less forgiving and privately the RFU remains incensed that the tour management has done nothing beyond reminding its players of their responsibilities.

Geoff Cooke, the England manager, added his view of the incident last night. 'I don't believe the players involved were doing it to clear the ball and I always find it difficult to believe you don't know when you are treading on someone's face,' he said, adding that he would be willing to join Beer's forum.

The immediate consequence for de Glanville is that he will miss the England A game against New Zealand on Sunday. The A team were named last night with Stuart Barnes being given the opportunity to prove himself both fit and ready for England after a persistent groin strain.

Ian Hunter's selection on the wing indicates that a revivalist performance by Jonathan Callard will win the Bath full-back his first cap. With Martin Bayfield, almost certainly, and Andy Blackmore, very definitely, unavailable for the Test at Twickenham on 27 November, there is a big chance for Nigel Redman to land a second-row place.

ENGLAND A (v New Zealand, Gateshead, Sunday): J Callard (Bath); I Hunter (Northampton), D Hopley (Wasps), M Catt (Bath), P Hull (Bristol); S Barnes (Bath), K Bracken (Bristol); G Rowntree (Leicester), G Dawe (Bath), A Mullins (Harlequins), N Redman (Bath), D Sims (Gloucester), J Hall (Bath, capt), T Rodber (Northampton), N Back (Leicester). Replacements: N Beal (Northampton), S Potter (Leicester), M Dawson (Northampton), C Clark (Oxford University), K Dunn (Wasps), S Ojomoh (Bath).

(Photograph omitted)