Shaw in line for Test return despite injury lay-off

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The Independent Online

Simon Shaw, an unusually substantial citizen whose contribution to the Lions' epic Test series in South Africa last summer mirrored his vital statistics, is likely to play his first game of the season for Wasps this weekend.

It should bring a smile of sorts to the face of Martin Johnson, who, during his own days as a second-row forward, was largely responsible for blocking the 36-year-old's path into the England side for the best part of a decade. Shaw has been training all week after recovering from a metatarsal problem, otherwise known as "Beckhamitis", and is expected to face Leeds on Sunday.

"England will be looking at him," predicted Tony Hanks, Wasps director of rugby, yesterday. It was not a statement of Nostradamus proportions.

Johnson, now England manager, has selection headaches wherever he looks ahead of next week's blockbuster Test against Australia at Twickenham, and the engine room of the scrum is as big a concern as any. Shaw will not be fit for the Wallabies clash, but if he can play some part in the Autumn series – meetings with Argentina and New Zealand follow – England will be better for his involvement.

"They say you're only as good as your last game, so Simon's in a nice spot at the moment," Hanks continued, referring to Shaw's star turn in the Lions' victory over the Springboks in Johannesburg last July.

"That was a while ago, though, and Simon feels he needs to get some rugby under his belt. With most players, you'd say two games wouldn't be enough, but Simon is not a normal player. If he comes through the next two weeks feeling like he's ready then you'd put him in."

On the subject of England selection, Hanks rejected the theory that two more of his internationals, Tom Varndell and Danny Cipriani, are out of favour on grounds of attitude. "The feedback I've had is that England are impressed with Tom – they think he's started the season well – and that everything Danny has done has been positive too," he remarked. "In the conversations I've had, there has been no talk of a blacklist."

Across the water in France, brilliant Toulouse midfielder Frédéric Michalak has been recalled to the national squad to face South Africa on 13 November following the withdrawal of Lionel Beauxis with a hand injury. Michalak has barely played for his country since the 2007 World Cup.

Meanwhile, the Rugby Football Union's management board has slapped a 15-point penalty on the Championship club Birmingham & Solihull, who put themselves into voluntary liquidation earlier this week.

New plans aimed at securing the future of the club have been considered by board members who, in an effort to "preserve the integrity" of the new professionalised second-tier competition, agreed to grant a temporary licence allowing the Midlanders to continue playing at their current level. However, this will last only until the end of next month.

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