Injury rules out Stevens from tour to Australia

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The Independent Online

Matt Stevens, the England prop, was yesterday ruled out of rugby for up to six months after an operationon his right shoulder.

Stevens, who underwent a lengthy operation on Monday, is the third England prop to have been sidelined.

Gloucester's Phil Vickery has been out of action since early January with a back injury that ruled him out for the rest of the season.

Then last week Sale Sharks' Andy Sheridan was discovered to have suffered a prolapsed disc in his neck that will sideline him for up to six weeks and is likely to render him doubtful for the summer tour.

In addition Wasps' back-row forward Lawrence Dallaglio revealed earlier this week that he needs to have a four-inch plate removed from his right ankle - the joint in which he suffered a fracture dislocation early in the Lions tour 10 months ago - which would rule him out of the tour.

That casualty list leaves the England head coach, Andy Robinson, with no choice but to blood youngsters Down Under. Yesterday Robinson said: "Matt is an important part of the England squad and made a big contribution during the Autumn series and the RBS Six Nations. He will be missed by Bath Rugby during this crucial time of the season, and by ourselves on the tour to Australia."

Stevens, 23, who won the first of his 10 caps against New Zealand two years ago, missed England's Six Nations matches against Scotland and Ireland as well as Bath's Powergen Cup semi-final match against Llanelli Scarlets early last month and the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Leicester last weekend.

Harlequins continue to bolster their squad in readiness for their return to the Premiership. Yesterday it was revealed they had signed the lock Olly Kohn, recently released by Bristol, on a two-year contract.

But it also emerged that their No8 Tony Diprose is expected to announce his retirement at the end of the season. Diprose, 33, who won 10 England caps, has barely featured in Harlequins' triumphant season in National League One, but the club hopes he can remain at The Stoop in some capacity.

The impending retirement of Robert Todd has prompted Sale to enter the transfer market and they have snapped up the centre Jon Bryant from Newport-Gwent Dragons.

The Sharks are also circling the cash-strapped Cardiff Blues, who are expected to release a raft of players at the end of the season. Among the nine unfortunates are the former Wales internationals Craig Quinnell and Ben Evans.

Premiership leaders Sale are reported to be particularly interested in the Blues' fly-half Lee Thomas, while the Dragons are chasing Tristan Davies to replace the Wales centre Hal Luscombe, who was signed by Harlequins this week.

Worcester yesterday secured the services of the Wasps hooker Ben Gotting on a two-year deal from next season, while England A hooker Matt Cairns, 27, has agreed a new two-year deal with Saracens.