Competitive fires burning bright for Dallaglio

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The Independent Online

The former England captain's most optimistic prediction for his latest return from injury was some time towards the end of the month, but his progress has been such that he already considers himself fit.

Dallaglio played a blinder of an opening 15 minutes for the Lions in their first tour fixture against Bay of Plenty in June. Unfortunately, he then slipped and caught his studs in the wet Rotorua turf, twisted his ankle into a shape bordering on the hideous, left the field strapped to a golf cart and was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he underwent surgery without further ado. As in 2001, when he was invalided out of Australia with a shattered knee, his Lions adventure had ended before it had properly started. Some thought he might not play again.

Not for the first time, Dallaglio begged to differ. He may be the wrong side of 30 - in fact, he turned 33 some seven weeks ago - but the competitive fires still burn. At a Wasps training session a couple of weeks ago he looked as lean and hungry as ever, and the thought of rejoining the fray in an Anglo-Welsh game featuring two sides with legitimate designs on a place in the Powergen Cup semi-finals was too tempting for words. It is not clear whether the No 8 will start this week's game or be given a run off the bench, although the latter would seem the most sensible approach after four months of inactivity.

While Dallaglio has refused to rule out a return to international rugby, from which he retired a little over a year ago, one of those who did play the big games against the All Blacks during the summer, the Wales outside-half Stephen Jones, is struggling to make his country's autumn Test series, which includes a fixture against New Zealand. Jones suffered an ankle injury playing for his French club side, Clermont Auvergne, at Biarritz last Saturday and is expected to be incapacitated for up to a month.

He will certainly miss Clermont Auvergne's opening Heineken Cup match against Leicester on 22 October, and as the All Blacks pitch up at the Millennium Stadium a fortnight later, his chances of retaining the No 10 shirt for that game are in the lap of the gods. Two more Welsh Grand Slammers from last season, Gavin Henson and Gethin Jenkins, are already out of contention. Another pair of injured Lions, the wing Shane Williams and back-row forward Ryan Jones, are also likely to miss out.

The Leicester lock Louis Deacon has been called into the England training squad for this week's intensive session at Loughborough. Two of the four second-rows originally selected in the 30-man party, Simon Shaw of Wasps and Tom Palmer of Leeds, are injured.

The Ospreys have picked up two acquisitions from New Zealand - Bay of Plenty's goal-kicking full-back Adrian Cashmore and Damien Karauna, who has played for Wellington and Waikato as an outside back.

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