England arm themselves with cover for Corry

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The Independent Online

England were forced to call up the Sale forward Chris Jones yesterday as cover for the former national captain Martin Corry, who has an infected arm.

Leicester's Corry, 33, has been put on a course of antibiotics and took no part in yesterday's training session at Bath University, though the England management is confident the No 8 will recover to face Italy at Twickenham on Saturday. Jones, who is scheduled to play for England Saxons against Ireland A in Belfast tomorrow night, will remain with the senior squad until further notice.

The Bath lock Danny Grewcock also took no part in training. The 34-year-old has what he described yesterday as "a sore arse" - the official England diagnosis is a sore hip - but his absence was merely a precautionary measure.

The England fly-half, Jonny Wilkinson, was in an almost jocular mood. "I have managed to spread my injuries around my body," he said, "and even went inside for the most recent one [a lacerated kidney]. But I feel very good, although I had a tough time on Sunday and Monday, when I was very sore and stiff."

Wilkinson, who scored 27 points against Scotland last Saturday through a try, two conversions, five penalties and a drop goal, pronounced himself mystified as to why so much fuss had been made of him on his England comeback, more than three years after his last appearance - in the 2003 World Cup final.

"It was strange," he said, "because so many people played so well last week. It's a little embarrassing.

"I became too absorbed in the frantic nature of the game and didn't make my decisions in the composed way I would have liked, so I have to work on that. I am a worrier with an 'o' rather than an 'a'. The way I see things is that last Saturday's result cannot count for anything with another game the following week."

England's opponents on Saturday will be without two of their best players, the flanker Mauro Bergamasco, who has 55 caps, and the centre Andrea Masi, who has 29. Both picked up muscle strains in the 39-3 defeat to France. Last night the Italy coach, Pierre Berbizier, due to name his team today, called up Overmach Parma's Roberto Barbieri and Calvisano's Matteo Pratichetti.

* English and French clubs yesterday boycotted a Dublin meeting on the future of the Heineken and European Challenge Cups. Last night a spokesman for Premier Rugby Limited said: "It was a deliberate boycott because we had nothing more to contribute." French clubs have withdrawn from next season's events because of fixture congestion caused by the World Cup. A European Rugby Cup Limited statement said: "All parties at the meeting expressed a commitment to the future of the ERC tournaments for 2007-08 and beyond and disappointment with regard to the current impasse involving LNR [Ligue Nationale de Rugby] and PRL." The next meeting is scheduled for 14 March.

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