Wasps 25 Bath 10: Dallaglio silent over England future

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The Independent Online

Wasps' dress code after matches is pinstriped suits, which gives some of their younger players the look of hopefuls attending a job interview in the City of London. The club captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, does things his own way, eschewing the jacket for a v-neck sweater which ironically makes him appear rather schoolboyish.

Those who pay attention to what Dallaglio has said and written of late will believe the only role he is likely to interview for in the future is some coaching position or other. As for playing No 8 for England, he does not expect to do it again, but to rule it out formally would mean revisiting a mistake he made once before in his eminent career.

BBC Radio's Sportsweek yesterday replayed last month's comments by Dallaglio in which he stated unequivocally that he would not retire again from international rugby. His post-World Cup autobiography not only contained well-publicised criticism of Brian Ashton, the England head coach; it also detailed how, in August 2004, while Dallaglio was enduring domestic problems with his then partner and now wife, Alice, he gave up playing for England only to regret doing so later.

Dallaglio mostly kept his thoughts to himself on Saturday evening, which was unusual, and he has a contract with a tabloid newspaper should the urge to make an announcement strike him. The 35-year-old veteran of 85 Tests blamed his reticence on the flu bug which kept him from training all week and forced Wasps who had eight players coughing or sniffling to run through every line-out permutation possible in Friday's team run. Dallaglio did, however, make it through the entire 100 minutes or so of an injury-interrupted match in which a much-changed Bath side clung to the cliff of competitiveness before their inevitable fall. With one lovely side-door pass to Paul Sackey, Dallaglio reminded all present of his halcyon days.

It led Ian McGeechan, Wasps' director of rugby, to describe Dallaglio who has six months left on his club contract, with a one-year option as the best No 8 in England on form. Nick Easter of Harlequins, Leicester's Jordan Crane and Wasps' James Haskell are other candidates when Ashton names a squad for the Six Nations Championship the week after next. Easter, though, injured a knee at Worcester on Saturday, and Bristol's Dan Ward-Smith has a broken hand. It is not a position of great strength.

Rob Webber, at least, was privy to some wise words from Dallaglio. Ordinarily a hooker, Webber covered for Tom Rees at open-side flanker, as he had done during the World Cup.

"Being in a squad with a guy like Lawrence is really impressive for me," said Webber, a 22-year-old Yorkshireman once in Leeds' academy. "He was great, with advice and bits of small talk here and there. The coaches don't put pressure on me to do what established sevens would do. It's more a case of getting round the park, making tackles and getting my hands on the ball if I can."

Webber did all that to a tee as well as scoring the first of Wasps' three tries. Sackey got the other two to become the second-highest Premiership scorer (61 to the 75 of Sale's Steve Hanley) but his flatmate, Tom Voyce, was not so happy. A tackle by Bath's Nick Abendanon left him with possible damage to lateral ligaments in his left knee. Phil Vickery, Wasps' England captain, came off with a calf strain which is not thought to be serious.

The Bath lock Danny Grewcock came off for 10 minutes in the sin- bin after trampling on George Skivington. Steve Meehan, the Bath head coach who had no regrets over his multiple team changes, thought Grewcock had been hard done by, but replays showed the whistle for a penalty had blown before Grewcock's scrabbling studs caught Skivington. As Dallaglio will testify, this game is all about good timing.

Wasps: Tries Webber, Sackey 2; Conversions Cipriani 2; Penalties Cipriani 2. Bath: Try Maddock; Conversion Barkley; Penalty: Barkley.

Wasps: J Lewsey; P Sackey, F Waters, R Flutey, T Voyce (M van Gisbergen, 47); D Cipriani (D Waldouck, 80), E Reddan (M McMillan, 62); T French, J Ward (J Buckland, 62), P Vickery (M Holford, 22), S Shaw (T Palmer, 54), G Skivington, D Leo (R Birkett, 56), R Webber, L Dallaglio (capt).

Bath: N Abendanon; J Maddock, T Cheeseman (O Barkley, 9), E Fuimaono-Sapolu, M Stephenson; S Berne (capt), N Walshe (M Baxter, 80); D Barnes, P Dixon (R Hawkins, 66), L Ward (P Ion, 40), M Purdy (S Borthwick, 39), D Grewcock, P Short, J Scaysbrook (I Fea'unati, 66), J Faamatuainu.

Referee: R Debney (Leicestershire).

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