English giants clash in cup as Lomu prepares for debut

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The Independent Online

While two of English rugby's giants, Leicester and Wasps, were drawn together in the semi-finals of the Powergen Cup, another giant, Jonah Lomu, is poised to return to action at the weekend.

The Powergen semis take place at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on 4 March and the tie featuring Wasps and Leicester is the latest in a string of titanic clashes over the last two seasons. Last year, Leicester won both Heineken Cup ties only to lose the Premiership play-off final to Wasps and earlier this season they slugged each other to a high-scoring draw at Wycombe in the Premiership.

The other semi-final has pitched the one-time knockout cup kings of England and Wales against each other. From the mid-80s to early 90s, Bath made the cup their own with 10 victories, while Llanelli have lifted the Welsh national KO title a dozen times in their 32-year history. Cardiff Blues did not make it to the last four but they are hoping to make more of an impact in Europe. To this end, it is looking likely that former All Black winger Lomu will feature in the Pool Two match at Calvisano at the weekend.

Lomu, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, has not played rugby for six months, but he is expected to be named in the Blues' 22-man match-day squad. The likelihood is that he will be on the bench, with a view to starting in the return match at home the following week. Meanwhile, Australia's senior rugby players want a say in the appointment of the next Wallaby coach. Tony Dempsey, chief executive of the Rugby Union Players' Association, has made the request to the ARU, according to reports.

Dempsey is reported to have said: "The senior players would have some valuable opinions that need to be garnered about the potential candidates. They may have first-hand experiences and insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. I'm not saying they should be the sole arbiters but they should have some input." The ARU is said to have drawn up a shortlist including Ewen McKenzie, of the New South Wales Waratahs, David Nucifora, the former Brumbies and present Blues coach, and John Mitchell, the former All Black coach .

Coaches Tony Rogers of Cambridge and Steve Hill of last year's winners Oxford, are promising an open, attacking Varsity match at Twickenham today, hoping they will entertain the expected 37,000 crowd. For a change, there are just half a dozen overseas players - three per 22-man squad.

Oxford University: A Knox (Keble); J Boto (University), A James (Wolfson), J Whittingham (St Cross), T Tombleson (Wolfson); J Fennell (Pembroke), K Brennan (Linacre); P Laffin (St Cross), A Dalgleish (St Anne's, capt), S Brophy (St Catherine's), R Graham (New), A Harris (St Cross), D Abbott (Somerville), D Palm (St Cross), J Jones (St Anne's). Replacements: D Rosen (Green), M Street (Kellogg), C Hadfield (University), J Bucknall (Kellogg), P Jenkins (Keble), S Fauth (Brasenose), R Lavery (St John's).

Cambridge University: I McInroy (Hughes Hall); D Akinluyi (Christ's), J Ansbro (Robinson), E Carter (St Edmund's, capt), C Desmond (Girton); J Ufton (St Edmund's), R Evans; J Bosch (both Hughes Hall), J Clark (St Edmund's), E Kalman (Fitzwilliam), J Blaikie (Hughes Hall), A Clements (St Edmund's), N Alberts, D O'Brien (both Hughes Hall), M Harfoot (St Catharine's). Replacements: T Woolsey (Queens'), T Kirkman (St Edmund's), A Gilbert (Fitzwilliam), R Bartholomew (Jesus), C Worsley (Hughes Hall), S Thomas (Trinity), P Magee (Magdalene).

Referee: W Barnes (RFU)

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