England pair get off lightly to lift Ashton

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The Independent Online

The England head coach, Brian Ashton, was last night given a double boost with the news that Bath's Danny Grewcock and Lee Mears had both been suspended for just one week at a disciplinary hearing in Bristol.

Grewcock pleaded guilty to stamping on the Sale Sharks flanker Nathan Bonner-Evans and will be available to play for Bath again on 11 January. The hooker Mears also pleaded guilty to stamping on Bristol's Joe El Abd and is likewise out till 11 January. Both players were this week named in Ashton's first squad.

A defiant Lawrence Dallaglio last night vowed to carry on trying to win back his England place. The Wasps back-row forward has never ducked anything on or off the field, and his omission from the head coach Brian Ashton's first elite 40-player squad has merely served to fuel the 34-year-old Dallaglio's appetite for international rugby.

"It's not come as a complete surprise," said Dallaglio, who had been tipped by some as a possible captain under the new regime. "It's disappointing, but I think it's a reflection of my form. I don't see it as terminal. Perhaps this is the kick up the backside I need. There's definitely a challenge there for me. I don't think I'm a million miles away. I'm working very hard. I feel that physically there's perhaps another level I can reach and I feel I can start to dominate games in the way I'm more used to doing."

Another player to return after "retiring" is Sale's brilliant back Jason Robinson. His director of rugby, Philippe Saint-André, said: "I'm a little surprised that he's not captain rather than Phil Vickery. He has a lot of charisma and is a good leader. I think he will bring a lot to England. He possesses all the right attributes and the experience."

Robinson just said he hoped he might play alongside his former Wigan rugby league team-mate Andy Farrell. "It's not a surprise to me that Andy is in the squad," he said. "I played for nearly 10 years at Wigan with him and I know how skilful he is."

The France head coach, Bernard Laporte, has included four uncapped players in his 40-man squad for the Six Nations: the centre Romain Cabannes and hooker Benoît August, both of Biarritz, and the prop Laurent Emmanuelli and full-back Anthony Floch of Clermont. Saracens' Thomas Castaignède, Wasps' Raphael Ibañez, and Sale's two Sébastiens, Bruno and Chabal are also included.

But the fly-half Frédéric Michalak is out with a serious knee injury and unlikely to take part in the tournament. However, the captain Fabien Pelous has been named, even though he will be sidelined for several weeks with an ankle problem.

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