Ruck and Maul: Care-less England take care to forge links with junior clubs

 

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The Independent Online

The closest the Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care will get to England's pre-Six Nations Championship training camp will be through the shirt he wore for his country against France in 2009, which is framed on the clubhouse wall at West Park Leeds RUFC.

The England squad are due at the Yorkshire Division Two club during the week of 23 January, but Care has been dropped after two arrests for alleged drink-related offences in the past month. He was a junior player at West Park Bramhope, who merged with Leeds to form West Park Leeds in 2006.

Leeds RUFC was itself formed in 1992, from the merger of Headingley and Roundhay; it became Leeds Tykes in 1998 before the professional team, known these days as Leeds Carnegie, split away in 2001.

England's interim head coach, Stuart Lancaster, was a flanker and director of rugby for Leeds and his children now play in the West Park Leeds junior section. "I'd like us to end up reconnecting with the game," Lancaster explained of England's switch in pre-tournament training venue after the past three seasons trips to Portugal.

"I want people in ordinary rugby clubs to think the England team is one they can associate with and be proud of."

A few good men

Somewhat less controversially than last year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, the Rugby Union Writers' Club have come up with an all-male listof nominees to receive the Pat Marshall Memorial Award for personality of the year at the club's annual dinner, which will be held in London tomorrow evening.

Last year's winner, the England Women's flanker Maggie Alphonsi, will be succeeded by one from a shortlist of the France captain, Thierry Dusautoir, the former All Blacks coach Graham Henry, the Wales captain, Sam Warburton, and the 2009 recipient, the Wales wing Shane Williams. An audience of 500 is expected at the Tower Hotel.

Try-scorer seeks trial

The extraordinary Phil Chesters' try-scoring exploits have slowed just a little following his club Ealing's promotion to National League One this season, but a return of 24 from 17 matches before yesterday's first v second battle at home to Jersey remains pretty prolific and it was near-impossible anyway for the wing to repeat last year's 70 tries in 27 National Two South games (obliterating Chris Ashton's English national league record, of 39 for Northampton in 2007-08).

Chesters, a 24-year-old sports rehabilitator, has yet to be offered a trial by a Premiership team, despite his mind-boggling 27 tries in the last seven matches of 2010-11. The only team Ealing lost to in the league last season was Jersey, so yesterday's 24-16 loss was not a huge shock. And Chesters was absent, with a broken hand.

Nil desperandum

The Aviva Premiership – as defined by the set-up established in August 1997, though leagues in England date from 1987-88 – has its 2,000th match today, when Saracens host Bath.

It would be neat if the all-time leading Premiership points-scorer, Charlie Hodgson, could reach the 2,000 mark today but the Saracens fly-half would need an unlikely 74 points to do it.

Perhaps we will see the 27th instance of a score of "nil" in the 2,000 matches? The 26th was suffered by Wasps at home to Worcester last Sunday; Saracens inflicted the 25th on Leeds at Vicarage Road in February 2011; and the 21st was when Saracens were beaten 9-0 by Wasps at Adams Park to start a veritable rush of four zeroes in February and March 2010.

The statistics expert Stuart Farmer informs Ruck and Maul that only Exeter, Gloucester, London Irish and Worcester among the current Premiership clubs have never been "nilled".

Seen and heard...

Well done to the Western Mail reporter who summarised the tug of war over the international eligibility of Steve Shingler as "Have you heard the one about the Welshman playing for the Irish in England who wants to play for Scotland?"

The Swansea-born London Irish back has a Scottish mum and was named in Scotland's Six Nations squad but Wales say he is qualified for them, having played for their Under-20s last season.

Meanwhile, the ESPN summariser and former England scrum-half Pete Richards enthused over London Irish's Tom Homer and others, describing them admiringly as "crackpot kickers". Well, it has been argued that Jonny Wilkinson practised to the brink of craziness, but we are guessing Richards was caught somewhere between "cracking" and "crash-hot"?

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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