Rugby Union: Woods in the pink for the fancy dans

Gloucester 20 Harlequins 31
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The Independent Online
THE WHIRLING dervish also known as Keith Wood was gleamingly pink, scrubbed clean of the dye which had him and his Ireland team-mates resembling woad-covered followers of Caractacus in last week's international.

The Harlequin hooker looked and sounded as if he had just completed a gentle stroll around the environs of Gloucester cathedral instead of having rucked and rumbled his way through a gruelling Allied Dunbar Premiership match at Kingsholm.

"I've been sniffing a type of blue dye all week," Wood explained, when asked what he was on that could allow him to perform in this way in two intense matches in seven days. "It's the only anabolic steroid I've ever taken, blue dye."

He did sound a trifle indignant when he added: "The PR company for Lloyds- TSB rang me up last Monday to reassure me that the dye was edible. I thanked them and said we normally chew the grass at the bottom of the scrums and the Irish and French front rows were chewing the cud last Saturday."

Wood is not just possessed of a sharp sense of humour, he is also a gifted footballer. The touch-finder he hoofed upfield at a penalty was worthy of Joel Stransky, or any other England outside-half; while any centre would have been proud of the angle he ran on the break which freed lock Gareth Llewellyn for the final score.

It was Wood's abrasiveness and spirit which kick-started them after the interval, but before he was ready to accept the plaudits for an outstanding performance Wood said: "I made a bit of a balls-up and didn't play too well for the first 20 minutes or so, although I think I changed it around a bit after that."

The loss of outside-half Thierry Lacroix with a hamstring injury that could keep him out of action for a couple of weeks did not help, and it will be interesting to see if Will Carling comes through a Second XV match against Henley at the Metropolitan Police ground at Imber Court tomorrow evening. Lacroix's replacement, Chris Wright, did a superb job as it happens, capping an excellent personal contribution with a cheeky try at the start of the second half.

What with the near immaculate kicking of John Schuster and some solid defence there was no way Gloucester were ever going to be allowed to regain their early momentum. They have not beaten Harlequins at Kingsholm since December 1993 and this was their ninth successive league defeat against the fancy dans of London Town an unthinkable state of affairs for the old stagers at the club.

But if Richard Hill's job as director of rugby is jeopardy he is not aware of it, instead he is considering calling on the services of the former Great Britain rugby league coach Phil Larder to work on defence, as he has been doing with England and Leicester, and Hill is still trying to sign Bedford back-row player Junior Paramore, although that now looks a remote possibility.

Gloucester: Tries Beim, penalty try; Conversions Mapletoft 2; Penalties Mapletoft 2. Harlequins: Tries O'Leary, Wright, Llewellyn; Conversions Schuster 2; Penalties Schuster 4.

Gloucester: A Lumsden; T Beim, S Mannix, R Tombs, P Saint-Andre (R Greenslade- Jones, 78); M Mapletoft (R Greenslade-Jones 19-28), S Benton; T Woodman, N McCarthy, A Powles (D Hinkins, 50), R Fidler, D Sims (capt; M Cornwell, 63), E Pearce (A Hazell, 72), S Ojomoh, N Carter.

Harlequins: D O'Leary (V Going, 80); J Keyter, P Mensah, J Schuster, D Officer; T Lacroix (C Wright, 4), H Harries; J Leonard, K Wood (capt), G Halpin (A Yates, 80), G Llewellyn, T Collier, B Davison, A Leach, R Jenkins (C Sheasby, 78).

Referee: D Mene (France).