Healey eyes last chance to claim World Cup place

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Austin Healey's rugby World Cup hopes have not gone west yet, but the England scrum-half admitted last night: "I think I am outside the Last Chance saloon still on my horse.''

Healey, who won his 50th cap as a replacement in England's 53-3 victory over South Africa in November 2002, has been battling back to fitness after a serious knee injury.

He spent a month in rehabilitation in a remote clinic in New Hampshire in the United States before returning in time to link up with the England summer training camp at Pennyhill Park in Surrey in July.

The England head coach, Clive Woodward, named Healey as one of four scrum-halves in a 43-man squad which has to be whittled down to 30 by the World Cup deadline of 8 September.

Reflecting on his chances, Healey said: "There's three other exceptional scrum-halves so when I get my chance against Wales or France in the warm-up matches, I will need to play well from the outset. But they do say when you're in the Last Chance saloon you have to give it your best shot.''

Woodward insisted last night: "I am determined that we take the right 30 players to the World Cup with us. I intend using all of them. Healey has to be on top of his game. We are not going in with anyone on sentiment.''

Woodward also hit back at southern hemisphere critics who spoke of England being predictable during their all-conquering tour Down Under this summer. "The one thing you cannot accuse us of is being predictable," he countered. "We were able to play a mauling game or use the back line. How we approach a game depends on who we are playing. We can play in a variety of different ways.''

Frankie Sheahan has appealed against his two-year doping ban. The Ireland hooker tested positive for the drug Salbutamol after a Heineken Cup semi-final for Munster against Toulouse on 26 April.

Sheahan claimed he had forgotten to inform the authorities that he was using the drug to combat asthma. European Rugby Cup Ltd did not accept that defence and banned him until 30 May 2005 at a hearing last month. The player's appeal against the decision will be heard in Dublin on 1 September.

Saracens appointed the former Australia international Rod Kafer as their first-team coach yesterday.

Newcastle Falcons will face Vallodolid in the opening round of the European Challenge Cup next season after the Spanish side La Moraleja Alcobendas withdrew from the tournament because of financial difficulties.