Shelley out of action after thumb injury

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The Independent Online

Life does not get any easier for Leeds. Not only did they suffer the ignominy of defeat at home to Bath - a side they beat home and away last season - to that insult can now be added injuries to two key players.

The captain, Mike Shelley, will be out of action for up to six weeks after suffering a fractured thumb, which was operated on yesterday, and the scrum-half Clive Stuart-Smith, signed from Gloucester during the summer, picked up a serious knee injury against Bath and is expected to be out for between six to 10 weeks.

It is a serious blow with Leeds travelling to Wycombe on Sunday to tackle the Zurich Premiership champions Wasps. There is the possibility that, despite having signed a raft of new players in the close season, the Leeds director of rugby, Phil Davies, will once more be in the market for a specialist or two in the light of these latest injuries. "We will look at our options and make a decision on the squad as soon as possible and see if we have to bring in cover," he said.

Davies may derive some consolation from the fact that he is one of three nominees along with Gloucester's Nigel Melville and Warren Gatland of Wasps for the Director of Rugby category in the 2002-03 Zurich awards.

Melville is one of four from Gloucester who is up for an award, winners of which will be announced tomorrow. Gloucester also have two nominees for the young player of the season, James Forrester and Marcel Garvey. Chris Jones of Sale is also included in that category.

And the Cherry and Whites' Jake Boer, who was named player of the season in May, is in the running for overseas player of the season along with Andrew Blowers of Northampton and Wasps' Craig Dowd.

While England's new World Cup strip fell apart against France in Marseille the other weekend, the Australians have unveiled their new kit which the manufacturers claim is 10 per cent stronger than the Wallabies previous gear. It is also more loose fitting than that displayed by other countries.

Peter Wheeler (Leicester) and Ed Goodall (Bath) have retired as Premier Rugby representatives from the board of England Rugby Limited having served for two years. They have been replaced by John Steele (Northampton) and Dave Thompson (Newcastle).

ENGLAND RUGBY BOARD: Francis Baron (chief executive, England Rugby & RFU), Howard Thomas (chief executive, Premier Rugby), Charles Jillings (chairman, Premier Rugby), John Steele (Northampton Saints), Dave Thompson (Newcastle Falcons), Damian Hopley (PRA), Chris Spice (RFU), Malcolm Phillips (RFU), John Spencer (RFU), Graeme Cattermole (RFU).

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