Simpson-Daniel's England injury jinx strikes again

Gloucester wing ruled out of Autumn internationals following knee operation
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The Independent Online

The Gloucester winger James Simpson-Daniel is out of England's Autumn internationals after learning yesterday that he has to undergo an ankle operation that will keep him on the sidelines for three months and also place doubt on his participation at the start of next year's Six Nations.

Simpson-Daniel has been dogged by injury since making his England debut against New Zealand in 2002 and there is a growing conviction that he is jinxed whenever a chance to play for England looms. The supremely talented and powerful runner is 26 and by now should have won several caps, but at an age when most players as gifted as Simpson-Daniel might have 30 or 40 Tests under their belt, he has been restricted to a measly 10.

In his short career the Gloucester wing has suffered glandular fever, a mystery virus in South Africa a couple of years ago along with fellow England crock David Strettle, shoulder injuries, back problems, a serious haematoma of a leg and an earlier ankle injury.

This latest setback happened during last weekend's Heineken Cup match against Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park. An MRI scan yesterday revealed that the Gloucester player had suffered an isolated rupture to his right ankle.

Dean Ryan, the Gloucester director of rugby, said: "To lose a player of James's quality is obviously a massive blow to us. He is an outstanding player and central to our attacking threat. Considering the other injuries we have across our backline this could not have come at a worse time for us."

Martin Johnson, the England team manager, said he would announce a replacement for Simpson-Daniel in the England Elite Player Squad today, with Leicester's Tom Varndell favourite to return.

Meanwhile the simmering club v country row in Wales escalated still further yesterday, with the regions making rumbling noises about resorting to the law to resolve the issue.

The Wales coach Warren Gatland wants to have the players for three days next week to continue the build-up towards the opening autumn international against South Africa at the Millennium Stadium the following weekend. That is in addition to the five days he will have them in the week of the Test, but the regions have important EDF Energy Cup matches for which to prepare and claim the three days next week are not a part of the agreement between them and the Welsh Rugby Union.

Regional Rugby Wales, the governing body for Cardiff, Newport-Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and the Scarlets, said in a statement: "Any attempts by either the IRB or the Welsh Rugby Union to force the player release issue could... result in legal action by the regions...."

The WRU countered with another request for the regions to release the players. "The WRU believes... that the reasonable requests of the national coaching team must be delivered."

RRW's interim chief executive David Moffett, the former CEO of the WRU, called the Union's response "mealy-mouthed".

Wasps yesterday announced that they had appointed the Waikato coach Tony Hanks to work alongside Ian McGeechan and Shaun Edwards. The 37-year-old New Zealander, who succeeded Warren Gatland as Waikato head coach when the former Wasps supremo left to become Wales head coach. He is expected to lighten McGeechan's workload when he is on Lions duty and help Edwards, who will be away with Wales on a part-time basis.