England lose recovering Vickery for autumn Tests

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The Independent Online

Phil Vickery will not be ready for England duty next month, according to Nigel Melville, his Gloucester club manager.

Melville believes England's three autumn Tests against Canada, Australia and South Africa have come too soon for the tighthead prop, who is still recovering full fitness after a second major back operation. Although Vickery was fit enough to play for Gloucester against Stade Français in the Heineken Cup on Saturday, he said yesterday it would be at least two months before he was the "real deal".

Melville said: "It will be a very close call, but I don't think he's firing on all cylinders yet. It's not up to me, but I think it's a big jump. You shouldn't go into internationals while managing a rehabilitation programme, and that is what he's doing."

The Scotland coach, Matt Williams, has said he is "extremely sad" that he will be left without nine players based with English clubs for the first of the autumn Tests against Australia at Murrayfield on 6 November.

The match, which unlike Scotland's other three Tests has been scheduled as a celebration of the new Scottish Parliament, falls outside the window set aside by the International Rugby Board for the Tests and Premiership sides such as Leeds, Newcastle, Northampton, Sale and Worcester have refused to release their Scottish players.

Williams said: "It's an extremely sad day for me and I can't understand that type of thinking. It's hugely disappointing that people wouldn't allow those players a chance to play for their country. We knew the game was outside the window, but we hoped the value placed on long-term club servants gaining an international cap would have prevailed. But they are not going to. So I do feel really sorry for people like Stuart Grimes and Tom Smith, who probably will never play Australia at Murrayfield again."

Williams added that Gordon Bulloch, the Glasgow hooker, would be captain for all four games.