Samoa set the wires humming yesterday by naming the Wasps hooker Trevor Leota in their 30-man World Cup squad. Only a fortnight ago the four-square front-row icon had announced that he would not be able to go to the tournament because it would cost him too much.
According to Leota, Wasps would cut his salary by as much as three-quarters while he was doing his bit for his country, so he concluded that he would have to remain with his club. But this latest announcement has caught Wasps and their director of rugby, Warren Gatland, on the hop.
"Warren doesn't know anything about it," Nolan Miller, the Wasps spokesman, said. "He is still under the impression that Trevor is not going to the World Cup with Samoa. But if Trevor does end up going, then he will do so with the club's and Warren's blessing."
The Italy coach, John Kirwan, has dropped a bombshell by leaving out the fly-half Ramiro Pez from his squad. With Diego Dominguez out of the picture, the Azzurri have no recognised goal-kicker.
The Italy manager, Marco Bollesan, explained: "We had placed our hopes in Pez but he did not reach the height of our expectations."
In Scotland, Ian McGeechan left out the New Zealand-born Brendan Laney from his World Cup squad. Laney, who was fast-tracked into the Scottish set-up two years ago, has been left out after failing to impress in warm-up matches.
Although Laney suffered a leg injury in Edinburgh Gunners' match against Connacht at the weekend, McGeechan suggested the omission was as much a tactical one as anything else. "We were looking at four players for three positions," McGeechan said, "and at the strengths we wanted out of the midfield. We were told two to three weeks out [for Laney's recovery] but when you are looking at three players for four or five places we have gone for more directness."
But while Laney's omission surprised many, the inclusion of the Borders winger Nikki Walker caught out everyone. Walker seemed to be on the threshold of a promising international career when he was selected for Scotland in the 2002 autumn Tests against Romania, South Africa and Fiji following a successful tour to North America. But the 21-year-old was dropped for this year's Six Nations and was not involved in any of the recent warm-up matches.
"We've been keeping an eye on him," McGeechan said. "We put him into the Under-21s for his own development. From the reports we have received, his defensive work has improved."
Walker comes in at the expense of the full-back Simon Webster and Rory Kerr. There was relief for the fly-half Gregor Townsend. He made the cut, as did four props, Tom Smith, Bruce Douglas, Gavin Kerr and Gordon McIlwham, and three hookers, Gordon Bulloch, Rob Russell and Dougie Hall. Overall the breakdown is 16 forwards and 14 backs.
BACKS: G Beveridge (Glasgow), M Blair (Edinburgh), A Craig (Orrell), S Danielli (Bath), A Henderson (Glasgow), B Hinshelwood (Worcester), K Logan (Wasps), J McLaren (Aviron Bayonnais), G Metcalfe (Glasgow), C Paterson (Edinburgh), B Redpath (Sale, capt), G Ross (Leeds), G Townsend (Borders), N Walker (Borders).
FORWARDS: R Beattie (Gwent), G Bulloch (Glasgow), B Douglas (Borders), S Grimes (Newcastle), D Hall (Edinburgh), N Hines (Edinburgh), G Kerr (Leeds), M Leslie (Edinburgh), G McIlwham (unattached), A Mower (Newcastle), S Murray (Edinburgh), J Petrie (Glasgow), R Russell (Saracens), T Smith (Northampton), S Taylor (Edinburgh), J White (Sale).
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