Change of luck is weight off mind for butcher's boy Luke

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The Independent Online

In Gloucester's opening Guinness Premiership match of the season, their all-action No 8 Luke Narraway decided to cut inside an opponent who didn't need to be cut inside and he slipped and tossed away a try in a demoralising defeat. Last weekend, Luke's luck changed when what appeared to be a knock-on in a line-out was waved away by the referee and Gloucester went on to score and kick off the Heineken Cup with a win. If life is a rollercoaster, Narraway has been up there, looping the loop.

"I think it was just a clever reverse pass, wasn't it?" Narraway asked, tongue in cheek, of the incident against Biarritz at Kingsholm eight days ago. "To be honest, it hit the end of my finger, and I didn't see where the ball went, but I know it rebounded on to somebody's leg and out on our side." James Simpson-Daniel ran in the try and the 22-10 win set Gloucester up for today's clash under the closed roof of the Millennium Stadium against the Cardiff Blues, who also began the Heineken Cup with a win, 56-20 away to Calvisano.

Narraway made his England debut against Wales this year when Lawrence Dallaglio retired and Nick Easter, Joe Worsley and Tom Croft were injured. It all hit a downward plunge when Lewis Moody and Tom Rees were injured during the match. Narraway was dropped to the bench but recalled to start and play promisingly well on tour in New Zealand in June, showing his flair as a link man with subtle and sympathetic passes.

Then came the try that should have been, against Leicester. "The Gloucester coaches said to me, 'Look, it's not a problem, as long as nine out of 10 times you do it fine, as you've done in the past'." The past has often been a painful country for Gloucester; three times defeated in the Premiership play-offs, and once in a Heineken Cup semi-final. Losing to Leicester, according to the 25-year-old Narraway, was no bad thing. "If we had won, it would have hid the things we needed to learn from. Better to do that at the start of the season than at the end."

Gloucester have a good record against Welsh opposition in Europe: 11 wins, a draw and two defeats (against Swansea in 1996 and the Ospreys last January). England-wise, Narraway drew strength from his summer encounters with "the best back row in the world" in New Zealand, and he will be the man in possession of the No 8 jersey when Martin Johnson's squad musters next Sunday.

After years of injury and disruption in the back row, would it not be wise to settle on one unit and let them get on with it? "As long as I'm in it," Narraway replied with a laugh. Fair enough, silly question. But Narraway agreed it was high time to find successors to the Holy Trinity of Richard Hill, Neil Back and Dallaglio. "In New Zealand the back row worked well, and I don't know whether it was the balance or just three young lads going out and having a crack," Narraway said, referring to his combination with Rees, the openside, and James Haskell. "You can chuck in the names of Tom Croft and Jordan Crane, who are playing out of their skins. Whoever gets the shirt, they will want to do England proud."

Narraway's proud parents, Ian and Gill, have season tickets at Worcester, the Premiership club in the city Luke calls home and where his dad has run the family butcher's shop for 30 years. Narraway Jnr could turn out a burger or a sausage, at a pinch, but his priority is working on the darker arts of ruck and scrum with Gloucester's forwards coach, Carl Hogg, and England's John Wells. Narraway has had his ups and downs, but butchering that opening-day try has not held him back.

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