England squad donate shirts for Hampson

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The Independent Online

The England squad were reminded of a darker side to rugby this week by the incident in training which has left Leicester's Under-21 international prop Matt Hampson with a serious neck injury.

The England squad were reminded of a darker side to rugby this week by the incident in training which has left Leicester's Under-21 international prop Matt Hampson with a serious neck injury.

Hampson was admitted to the intensive care unit at Northampton General Hospital on Tuesday where doctors had to realign his neck using traction. He is expected to be transferred to a specialist unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital for an operation to reduce and stabilise the fracture, and will then return to Northampton for further care.

With serious doubts over Hampson's playing career, the England players have been deeply affected by his tragic accident and the England head coach, Andy Robinson, made a short statement yesterday before training ahead of Saturday's Calcutta Cup game against Scotland at Twickenham.

"Our thoughts are with Matt Hampson and his family," he said. "We wish him well for a speedy recovery. A massive gesture from the players is that the whole 22 are donating their shirts from Saturday's game to be auctioned to raise money for Hampson."

The England captain, Martin Corry, a club-mate of Hampson, said: "The whole of the England squad is greatly saddened by the news of Matt Hampson's injury. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to Matt and his family at this very difficult time.

"Matt is a member of Leicester Tigers' Academy and is a very likeable guy. He enjoys his rugby, works hard at it and his talent has already been recognised by the England Under-21 coaches. Matt's injury puts everything else in rugby into perspective."

Then it was back to the business in hand for Corry and his team-mates, albeit in a subdued atmosphere. Robinson justified fielding an unchanged side from the victory over Italy. "There were some decisions that were very close," he said, "but the performances of the whole squad has moved forward over the last seven weeks and we thought it right not to make changes. Right from day one and that poor performance against Wales I think we have really moved forward."

One player in particular who was mentioned in Robinson's despatch was replacement hooker Andy Titterell, who came on late in the game against Italy to win his third cap.

The man whose position he is threatening, Steve Thompson, has been criticised for his throwing at the line-out in previous matches, but yesterday the Northampton captain was bullish.

"When another hooker throws the ball in, it's an outstanding throw. When I throw it in, it's an outstanding catch," Thompson claimed.

"I scored a try against Italy and everyone slagged me off for it. That's just the way it's being reported at the moment, but I am enjoying myself in this squad. There is a good buzz about the place. And my line-out has just got better and better."

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