Rugby Union: Underwood's outside edge

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The Independent Online
England A. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59

Italy B . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

IT SHOWS England's utter dominance of rugby in these islands that British Isles selectors should have been among the 7,000 here for last night's doddle of a win by John Hall's prolific A-team. Against an occasionally shambolic Italian side, they played with such superb verve and vision that nine tries were actually a rather scant return.

The leading English candidates - meaning the entire Grand Slam- chasing side - for two summer months in New Zealand will be playing against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, but you could make a sensible case for at least half of dozen A-team members as well. One imagines that Tony Underwood's selection, for instance will be virtually automatic.

Geoff Cooke was, naturally enough, at the Recreation Ground as manager of England as well as of the Lions, leaving Dick Best to get on with England coaching in Gloucester. David Richards and Derek Morgan were with Cooke, though, and if the tour choice is made on this evidence rather than geo-political grounds, there could even be 20 Englishmen on the trip.

They will certainly not include Matthew Dawson, but mark the Northampton scrum-half down now for life with the Lions in South Africa in 1997. To think that his orchestrating display at the heels of a rampant pack came about only because Richard Hill withdrew, as he had from the A-team's recent victory over France, with an ankle injury . . .

Hill will find himself under pressure even for his club place next season. Robert Howley, the immensely promising Bridgend and Wales B scrum-half, has already registered, in accordance with the 120-day qualification rule, for Bath.

England destroyed the Italians with the consistency of their forwards' ball-winning and the creativity and continuity of their backs. A couple of second-half attacks apart, the closest Italy went to the English line was an unsuccessful penalty by Massimo Bonomi, while England won by the length of Great Pulteney Street despite missing eight of 14 kicks at goal.

Stuart Potter began the rout by collecting Paul Challinor's up-and- under at the Italian posts. Harvey Thorneycroft followed after Alan Buzza had inserted himself from full-back. Underwood touched the accelerator on the outside. Dawson and Buzza rubbed it in. England capitalised less than they might have done in the second half, when Underwood, Neil Back, Potter and Back again joined the procession.

England A: Tries Underwood 2, Potter 2, Back 2, Thorneycroft, Dawson, Buzza; Conversions Challinor 2, Buzza 2; Penalties Challinor 2.

ENGLAND A: A Buzza (Wasps); T Underwood, S Potter (both Leicester), D Hopley (Wasps), H Thorneycroft (Northampton); P Challinor (Harlequins), M Dawson (Northampton); C Clark (Swansea), K Dunn (Wasps), A Mullins (Harlequins), M Johnson (Leicester), A Blackmore (Bristol), J Hall (capt), S Ojomoh (both Bath), N Back (Leicester). Replacement: M Greenwood (Wasps) for Ojomoh, 64.

ITALY B: M Dotto; L Perziano (both Treviso), S Bordon (Rovigo), M Tommasi (Milan), L Manteri (Treviso); M Bonomi (Milan, capt), G Faltiba (San Dona); F Properzi-Curti, A Marengoni (both Milan), M Dal Sie (San Dona), R Favaro, M Giacheri (Treviso), R Cassina (Casale), F Coppo (Treviso), D Beretta (Milan). Replacement: A Piazza (San Dona) for Marengoni, 56.

Referee: G Black (Ireland).

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