Grewcock and Krige on course for Perth collision in World Cup
Thursday 29 May 2003
Clive Woodward would not have wanted it this way, given the depth of his disgust at South Africa's ultra-violent approach to last November's Test match with England at Twickenham, but for 24 hours, the two countries were at one in glossing over the physical excesses of their most troublesome forwards. Woodward, the England coach, named Danny Grewcock of Bath in a 37-man party for next month's tour of New Zealand and Australia, while Rudi Straeuli, his Springbok counterpart, confirmed Corne Krige as his captain for this autumn's World Cup.
Given that Grewcock had recently been dismissed for punching an international colleague, Lawrence Dallaglio, during the Parker Pen Challenge Cup final, and that Krige was still struggling to live down a reputation for calculated thuggery earned during his ill-fated appearance in London before Christmas, neither decision would have been welcomed by those who refuse to buy the argument that rugby is inherently a violent game. Woodward, at least, understood the delicacy of his position, hence his knowing laugh as he described Grewcock's record as "exemplary".
Yesterday, the England coach switched horses and decided to leave his Lions lock at home for the duration of the summer tour, rather than fly him all the way the New Zealand for a few training sessions. Woodward had expected Grewcock, banned for two weeks by a European Rugby Cup disciplinary committee, to appeal against his suspension. When the player and his club decided an appeal was more trouble than it was worth, he opted to cut the cord and take Tom Palmer, the gifted young Leeds second row, instead.
Straeuli, meanwhile, is unlikely to countenance any similar about-turn. Krige, currently recovering from a knee injury that will prevent him facing Scotland in a two-Test series next month, has been officially annointed as his country's leader, and if fit come October, he will renew hostilities with England in a highly significant World Cup pool match in Perth. Grewcock may well be there too, in which case the crowd will expect to be issued with hard hats.
It may well be that Palmer, capped as a replacement against the United States almost two years ago, will be asked to confront the New Zealand Maoris in Taranaki on 9 June - a match that has "nightmare" written all over it. It will certainly amount to a learning experience for the 24-year-old line-out specialist, given the presence of Greg Feek, Dan Braid, Troy Flavell and Taine Randell in the Maori pack. Palmer could then find himself on a plane to Vancouver, where England's shadow side are to play Canada and the United States in the inaugural Churchill Cup tournament. If that is the way of it, the Yorkshireman will join up with Alex Codling, the Saracens-bound Harlequin, who was called into the second-string yesterday.
Having pre-selected Grewcock for World Cup duty - "All things being equal, Danny will definitely be involved," he said this week - Woodward will expect him to remain somewhere near peak fitness over the next seven weeks, in preparation for a warm-weather training slog at the end of July. Grewcock will then play at least one, probably two, of the warm-up matches against Wales and France before taking his place in the 30-man elite party bound for Perth.
Meanwhile, Gloucester have named James Simpson-Daniel, their one serious injury doubt, in their 22 for this weekend's Zurich Premiership final with Wasps at Twickenham. The England wing is likely to form a potent back-three partnership with Thinus Delport, the former Springbok full-back, and Marcel Garvey.
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