Marsh's World Cup boost for France

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The Independent Online

Tony Marsh, the New Zealand-born centre who underwent chemotherapy earlier this year for testicular cancer, proved his fitness for France's World Cup squad when he played for the French Barbarians against a President's XV for 70 minutes in Narbonne yesterday.

Marsh, lining up with or against most of his World Cup colleagues, created a try for the Barbarians who lost 83-12 in a match played at half pace under a hot sun. "It was hard and I didn't see much of the ball. It was mostly defence, but I feel all right," said the 31-year-old who last played for France in June 2002.

A groin problem sidelined Marsh late last year and doctors diagnosed a tumour in February, causing him to miss the Six Nations' Championship. He was not fit to play in theTests on France's southern-hemisphere tour in June, but was still assured by the national coach Bernard Laporte that he would go to the World Cup. Marsh, first selected by France in November 2001 after a three-year qualification period, was a key member of the team which won the Grand Slam in 2002.

Georgia have discounted press reports that financial problems would force them to pull out of the World Cup, and promised to be "out there fighting" when they make their debut in the finals against England in Perth on 12 October.

Zaza Kassachvili, vice-president of the Georgian Rugby Union, said from the team's training camp in southern France: "Our union's president made certain comments which were designed to put pressure on the authorities at home. It was not to put pressure on the IRB or anyone else. We have our flight tickets to Australia booked, the visas are waiting to be collected at the Australian embassy in Paris, and we have 30 players - fanatical rugby guys - all ready to go. Georgia will be out there fighting, but despite our success in getting to the World Cup nobody at home wants to give us a dollar."

Craig Chalmers, the former Scotland fly-half who is 35 next month, was on target with two conversions in his debut for Pertemps Bees in National League One. His new team, formerly known as Birmingham/Solihull, thrashed Penzance/Newlyn 50-17, with full-back Dave Knight claiming a hat-trick of tries and centre Sean Woof helping himself to a brace. Pertemps Bees head the table on points difference from Chalmers' former club, Worcester, who edged to a 31-20 win at Bedford.