Ruck and Maul: Simpson the unused sub will have to cap his call-up in the Cup

 

Joe Simpson did any number of stretches and got a pat on the back from the fourth official, but all his twitches on the Dublin touchline last weekend came to nought as time ran out for the Wasps scrum-half to make a Test debut.

So Simpson will become the ninth England player to go to a World Cup without a cap to his name. Four were in original squads: Jon Webb and Dave Egerton in 1987 (Webb played; Egerton had to wait a few months for his debut); Richard West in 1995 (the lock made his only England appearance against Western Samoa), and Joe Worsley in 1999 (he played against Tonga and Fiji and now has 78 caps). Mick Skinner (1987), Andy Gomarsall (1995) and Martyn Wood and Leon Lloyd (1999) were called upon to replace injured players without making an appearance, though Skinner and Gomarsall each played in a later final, in 1991 and 2007 respectively.

Mullins is man with the mike

Take your (new) partners for the World Cup broadcasters' merry-go-round. Miles Harrison, who with Stuart Barnes was 'loaned' to ITV by Sky for the 2007 tournament, is commentating for Sky New Zealand this time.

Back home, BBC had the UK TV rights for the first World Cup in 1987, but ITV outbid them in 1991 and have held the rights ever since, despite showing little other live rugby. John Taylor, ITV's mainstay as the final commentator, has switched to radio now, working in tandem with Brian Moore for Talksport, who have nabbed the full live rights from BBC Five Live.

Nick Mullins, the lead commentator on ESPN last season, will be ITV's main man for the final in Auckland. The BBC's only live commentary will be supplied in Welsh by Gareth Charles on Radio Cymru.

Wallabies touch Wood

ITV rolled out their pundits for a press call five weeks ago and Sean Fitzpatrick, Scott Hastings, Thom Evans, Alan Quinlan and Lawrence Dallaglio all tipped New Zealand to win the World Cup. Over on BBC a fortnight ago, Jonathan Davies and Jerry Guscott agreed.

Only Keith Wood demurred, going for Australia. Considering last week's Wallaby win in Brisbane, perhaps Woody was on to something. But the All Blacks remains odds-on favourites with every British bookie.

North makes tight call

You feel a little old when... George North, a potential World Cup star on the Wales wing, was asked what he remembered of past tournaments.

The 19-year-old racked his memory all the way back to, er, 1999. 'That was then Wales wore those baggy shirts,' said North, who has known only the figure-hugging variety. Yes, and they all had those long, twirly moustaches too.

Woodward flies in

Martin Johnson has given the green light to wives and girlfriends joining England's players in New Zealand – and another old pal will be there too.

Sir Clive Woodward is taking a week's leave from the British Olympic Association to head down under as a guest of the International Rugby Board, for the semi-finals and final.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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