Ospreys say sorry over gouging row

Club apologise to Julian White as hooker is cleared to join England training party
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The Independent Online

Ben Foden might have gained promotion to England's Six Nations Championship squad on the strength of his emergence as something of a back of all trades but the versatility of the Northampton player does not happen to stretch all of the way from full-back to the front row. There must be relief all round in the red rose camp, then, now that Julian White has been cleared to join the training party out in Portugal, Martin Corry having instead been cited with a charge of gouging Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard in Leicester's Heineken Cup defeat in Swansea on Saturday.

There was even a qualified apology from Ospreys yesterday to accompany White on his way to the Algarve. A statement issued by the Welsh region said: "We would like to make clear that the gouging incidents currently being pursued relate to Martin Corry at Saturday's game at the Liberty Stadium and that matters relating to Julian White are purely connected with the prior encounter at Welford Road. The Ospreys would like to apologise for any erroneous comments relating to the identity of the individuals concerned immediately after Saturday's game prior to official citing."

As for Foden, the one uncapped played in Martin Johnson's 32-man squad, the question remains to be resolved about the identity of his best position. Like Matt Stevens, whose enforced withdrawal from the group last week made way for White, Foden has form as a wannabe on the musical stage. As a teenager he got to the first round in Pop Idol as a member of a band called Anonymous.

As a 23-year-old, he has made it into the England Elite squad as a scrum-half who has been making a name for himself as a full-back.

Foden, an England player at sevens, under-21s and Saxons level, left Sale for Northampton at the end of last season because he wanted to concentrate on a career in the No 9 jersey.

It is with some irony that he has received his first call-up to the full senior squad after a couple of swashbuckling try-scoring Guinness Premiership performances in the No 15 shirt – the kind that moved Philippe Saint-André, Sale's Gallic director of rugby, to venture last season: "If Ben is not a full-back I will eat my French beret."

Not that Foden himself is complaining about his lot, with the possibility of bench duty beckoning next week and with Johnson and his coaching team having deployed him principally in his favoured position over the course of the first two days of training in Portugal.

"So far I've been training mostly as a nine and running occasionally in the 15 shirt," he said last night. "I think nine is my main focus here at the moment, but I am comfortable in both positions. I spoke to Martin Johnson and he said it's a bonus for me to play in both positions, especially if they're looking to play me off the bench. I would always prefer to be seen as a nine/15 rather than a 15/nine, but just playing for England in any position would be a great honour."

Foden needs to steer his way past Danny Care and Harry Ellis to get into the England No 9 shirt. Today all three will be behind the wheel, with a spot of team-building go-karting on the agenda after the graft on the training pitch.

Mathew Tait, Nick Kennedy and Delon Armitage will all be absent having returned home last night to gain more game time with their clubs this weekend.

Also poised for a return to home soil is the Scotland scrum-half Chris Cusiter. After two years with Perpignan, he has signed a three-year deal to join Glasgow.