Thompson boost for England as Barkley is ruled out

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The Independent Online

There was mixed news for the England head coach, Andy Robinson, yesterday. First, it was confirmed that the Bath inside centre Olly Barkley is out of England's opening autumn international against New Zealand on 5 November.

Barkley, 24, dislocated his right index finger in Sunday's Premiership match at Saracens, but X-rays on Monday revealed he had also fractured a metacarpal in a hand. Then Northampton announced that their England wing Ben Cohen is doubtful for the Heineken Cup match against Biarritz, after aggravating a collarbone injury against Leicester at the weekend.

At least Saints had a glimmer of good news for Robinson. Their hooker Steve Thompson returned to training yesterday, having recovered from a calf injury sustained against Gloucester late last month.

The Barkley blow, however, is a bad one for Robinson. It was his first game back since 23 September when he suffered a nasty groin injury, and his absence gives Robinson aproblem in the centre. There is now every chance that Newcastle's Jamie Noon and Mathew Tait will line up there.

At least Barkley has not followed ACT Brumbies' No 8 Jone Tawake. The Fiji international had a finger amputated to ensure his fitness for next year's World Cup in France after dislocating it then having an infection following surgery.

Wales have confirmed their coaching team for the 2007 tournament. The head coach, Gareth Jenkins, and attack coach, Nigel Davies, will be joined for the World Cup (and to the end of the 2007-2008 Six Nations) by Robin McBryde (set-piece), Rowland Phillips (defence) and Neil Jenkins (kicking).

Scottish Rugby has secured a leg of the International Rugby Board Sevens World Series for the next five years. Next June, Murrayfield will stage the event's final leg, which begins in Dubai in December, moves on to South Africa, New Zealand, the United States, Hong Kong and Australia, with the penultimate leg at Twickenham in May 2007.

Reports in New Zealand have linked the All Blacks inside centre Aaron Mauger with a move to Leicester when his contract with the New Zealand Rugby Football Union runs out after the 2007 Rugby World Cup.