Rugby Union: Woodward banking on positive Test

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CLIVE WOODWARD is refusing to contemplate any "worst-case scenarios" as his depleted England team, averaging just five caps and 24 years per man, prepare for Saturday's Test against Australia in Brisbane. "It's 15 against 15 and we will have done a lot of work with these players by next weekend," said the England coach. "They have an opportunity to test themselves against the best in the world, and there's no need for me to motivate anyone. We've set the ground rules to pick players on form and fitness, and we have a 37-man squad who are all relishing the prospect of these seven games on tour. We'll be sending out a very exciting team next Saturday and I'm very happy with these guys."

Wales are waiting to find out whether Allan Bateman will miss their tour of South Africa because of the sinus operation which his club, Richmond, want him to have on Wednesday. Wales fly to Zimbabwe that day for a six- match tour which concludes with a Test against South Africa on 27 June. The club feel the British Lions centre should have the operation as soon as possible. But the Welsh Rugby Union claim Richmond are in breach of International Board rules and have asked the Rugby Football Union to order Richmond to release the 33-year-old.

The Canterbury Crusaders wing James Kerr scored a last-minute try at Eden Park yesterday to dash Auckland Blues' hopes of winning the Super 12 for a third successive year. Kerr followed up a chip from the All Blacks' fly-half Andrew Mehrtens, who converted to secure a 20-13 victory which gave the Crusaders the title for the first time.

Canterbury led 3-0 at the interval through a Mehrtens penalty, but Auckland cracked their resistance two minutes into the second half when the hooker James Christian scored between the posts. Adrian Cashmore converted and then put Auckland 10-3 ahead with a 40-metre drop goal before a mix- up let Norm Maxwell in for a soft try which Mehrtens converted. Cashmore restored the lead with a 68th-minute penalty but Mehrtens levelled again four minutes from time with a 40-metre penalty, which set up the thrilling finale.

James Small, who holds the South African record for international caps and tries, has been dropped from the 24-man Springbok squad for forthcoming Tests against Ireland, Wales and England. The 29-year-old wing, who had a poor Super 12 with Western Province, gives way to the uncapped Stefan Terblanche.

Other newcomers are fly-half Gaffie du Toit, wing McNeil Hendricks, prop Robbie Kempson and loose forward Selborne Boome. Ollie le Roux comes in for the injured prop Os du Randt and centre Pieter Muller returns in place of Dick Muir who has retired due to a neck injury.