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Ruck and Maul: Casey given send-off by Johnno amid mass exodus of the Exiles


Brian Smith enlisted his erstwhile England colleague Martin Johnson to give London Irish's captain, Bob Casey, a memorable send-off yesterday after 10 years at the club.

Smith, who returned for a second stint with Irish in March after coaching England's attack for three years, arranged for Johnson to record a video message to Casey that was played at the match against Gloucester.

In the days when they played against each other, Casey rated Johnson as his most respected adversary. Smith is back with a brief to strengthen Irish's links with their amateur club, bring through English-qualified players and maintain a dash of Irishness; hence the signings of half-backs Tomas O'Leary and Ian Humphreys.

"It's time to rebuild the side, it is the start of a new era," Smith told Ruck and Maul in a week when Delon and Guy Armitage, Nick Kennedy, Paul Hodgson and Kieran Roche also bade farewell, while Mike Catt left to accept a contract until 30 June in Smith's old role with England. "Mike is taking the best job in the world, I can tell you," said Smith, though he still regrets the contractual gag that bound him to stay silent when anonymous comments by England players denigrating his coaching were leaked last autumn.

"I'm sure Mike will do well with England and I'm sure he will stay in the longer term. I know Wayne Smith and Andy Farrell were mentioned for that job but don't call Mike a bridesmaid. He will be working with young players who consider him a legend of the game."

Lancaster will take extra Care

Johnson's successor, Stuart Lancaster, has indicated he will recall Danny Care for England's tour to South Africa.

The Harlequins scrum-half was dropped for the Six Nations after two alcohol-related incidents and bailed pending inquiries into an alleged sexual assault.

Care, 25, has written a personal development plan seen by the England head coach. "It is easy to write it on paper but I have done my homework and know what he is doing, how he is performing, his behaviour, his attitude in between coaching sessions," Lancaster said.

"If he continues to convince me, he is going to be in the equation. For me it is about how he manages his time between rugby sessions. He has a clearly defined structure throughout the week at Harlequins but what he was doing between times did develop off the field."

Behaviour on tour was a subject put to Johnson many times yet it still let England down on three occasions at the World Cup. "There will definitely be some chats with the players," said Lancaster. "For me attitude, energy, emotion, discipline are what I base teams on. They should be a given for the England team. That said, I will be reminding them of their responsibilities as international players. It is a big tour [in June]. We are travelling all over South Africa. Everyone needs to understand their roles and responsibilities within that."

Gardens defy hosepipe ban

Northampton Town, as a Football League club, are exempt from the hosepipe ban that prompted the borough council to switch off a fountain in the town's Market Square, even though it uses recycled water.

The rugby club is not exempt but thankfully for their proud groundsman and former England prop David "Piggy" Powell, the water from the lake behind Franklin's Gardens helped keep the Saints' pitch green and pleasant. That and the incessant rain, of course.