Danielli is keen to put his England days in the past

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The Independent Online

It has happened before, of course. Back in April 1967, an England World Cup-winning team was famously beaten by Scotland. Then again, for that football international at Wembley, Bobby Brown, the Scotland manager, did have William Wallace wearing the number seven shirt - or Willie Wallace, as the Celtic striker was more commonly known - not to mention players of the calibre of Denis Law, Billy Bremner and Jim Baxter, who taunted Sir Alf Ramsey's boys by playing keepie-uppie in the midst of that 3-2 Scottish victory.

Unfortunately for Scottish rugby, Matt Williams has no such luxuries. The dearth of talent at his disposal was starkly evident in his first match as Scotland's head coach, the 23-10 defeat against Wales in Cardiff last Saturday. It is a pity for Williams that Jason Robinson opted to play for the land of his birth when he switched from rugby league, rather than for the land of his Scottish mother, Dorothy.

Then again, though, Scotland's coach of three months can call upon the services of a player who has performed a starring role in a 56-5 victory in a Scotland-England rugby union international. In March 1998 Simon Danielli scored the last of his team's nine tries in a rout that was, to quote the report in The Scotsman the following day, "so one-sided that a rethink on this fixture is now overdue".

The man who will wear the No 14 jersey for Scotland at Murrayfield tomorrow was playing on the right wing for England's under-18 schools team that night at Hughenden in Glasgow, alongside Alex Sanderson, who will be on the England bench. Danielli also played with Jonny Wilkinson, Iain Balshaw and Mike Tindall at age-group international level before studying philosophy and theology at Trinity College, Oxford, and then switching allegiance to the land of his birth.

Raised in Cheltenham but born in Edinburgh, Danielli is keen to distance himself from his dalliance with England ahead of his first Calcutta Cup match. "To be honest, it just seems like ages ago," he said yesterday. "I've been involved in the Scotland set-up for a while now and I was never really involved with England from Under-18s onwards. I played one game for the Under-21s on tour."

The Bath wing has played seven games as a Scot since his debut against Italy last August and, with four tries to his name, the 6ft 4in, 16st giant has made a big impression. Tomorrow, though, he faces the daunting proposition of an England senior XV in mightily impressive form. "It's exciting to be playing against the world champions on home turf," Danielli insisted. "I have great respect for them as individuals, as a team, and for the way they play. It's going to be a massive challenge."

It just so happens that directly opposite the former England schoolboy at Murrayfield tomorrow evening will be the massive figure of Ben Cohen, whose uncle, George, played at right-back for the English World Cup winners beaten by Scotland at Wembley 37 years ago.

* Italy have made three changes in the backs for their match against France in Paris tomorrow. With the captain, Alessandro Troncon, still unavailable through injury, Paul Griffen will continue to deputise at scrum-half and Andrea De Rossi captains the side. Andrea Masi, the full back, has not recovered from a hamstring injury and is replaced by Roland De Marigny. Mirco Bergamasco starts on the right wing and Matteo Barbini is preferred to Manuel Dallan at inside centre.

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