Ashton declares Corry will be fit for start of World Cup

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The Independent Online

With the World Cup now just eight days away, upbeat bulletins are the just what the doctor ordered and in this regard Brian Ashton's clipboard was positively booming at Twickenham yesterday.

The England coach announced that Martin Corry would be fit for the opening fixture against the United States in Lens a week on Saturday and that Peter Richards, the London Irish scrum-half, could also figure. The former limped off nursing his left knee during England's defeat in Marseilles 12 days ago, while the latter missed all three warm-up games because of a back injury.

Concerning Corry, Ashton sounded particularly chuffed; little wonder seeing as the Leicester forward provides so many options in both selection and the line-out. "Martin didn't train today, but he is continuing his rehab," he said.

The chances of Richards being alongside him are not too great, but that has more to do with the form of Shaun Perry than his own setback. At least the favoured deputy has passed a fitness test. There were also reassurances that Phil Vickery will make the starting XV after suffering concussion against France.

Meanwhile, New Zea- land, favourites to relieve England of the Webb Ellis Trophy, are due to arrive at their Corsican training camp today, with each of their number carrying a small capsule containing earth from the country's main rugby grounds. French customs need not panic, however, because, as a spokesman revealed, no muddy stone has been left unturned. "To ensure no living organisms can be transported, the soil went through an autoclaving process," a statement said. "It was subjected to 121 degrees C under 1.1 atmospheres of pressure." Now, that is preparation.

* Eddie O'Sullivan, the Ireland coach, yesterday had his contract extended by another four years, up to and beyond the next World Cup in 2011.